Aegis fratmen insist Castillo died due to pre-existing heart condition

MANILA -- Members of the Aegis Juris fraternity involved in the hazing-related death of UST law freshman Horacio "Atio" Castillo III presented three doctors before the Department of Justice on Thursday to support their claim that Castillo died from a pre-existing heart condition called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.

At the continuation of the preliminary investigation on the case, the three Aegis Juris fratmen--John Paul Solano, Mhin Wei Chan, and Axel Hipe-- who have been named respondents in the case, filed their respective rejoinder-affidavits and the judicial affidavits of their medical experts, namely, Floresto Arizala Jr., Rodel Capule, and Bu Castro, to the investigating panel chaired by Assistant State Prosecutor Susan Villanueva.

The respondents insist Atio already had a heart problem called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) and refuted the findings of Supt. Joseph Palmero, MD of the Medico-Legal Division of the Philippine National Police (PNP).

All three doctors contested the findings of the PNP medico-legal division that Castillo died of hazing injuries, particularly due to acute tubular necrosis (ATN) and congestion.

Solano, in his rejoinder, cited medical expert witnesses of fraternity members, who backed his claim that the law freshman died of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, not hazing during initiation rites.

Arizala, in his 13-page judicial affidavit, claimed that the Manila Police District's final medico-legal report has no factual and medical basis. It is not supported by the findings in the medico-legal report.

The said finding (death due to hazing) is completely hearsay and speculative, and it cannot and should not be made as legal basis for filing a criminal case, he stressed.

Arizala, former chief of National Bureau of Investigation medico-legal and also a lawyer, branded the PNP finding as "out of this world because there is no such thing as death due to hazing."

For his part, Dr. Capule said the first medico-legal report shows that Dr. Palmero admitted in his opinion that the cause of death of Horacio was not specifically due to trauma and was based merely on limited data and tissue samples.

In spite of his remarks, Dr. Palmero ventured into giving an opinion that the cause of death is severe blunt traumatic injuries, both upper limbs as shown in the gross autopsy findings, Capule claimed.

Capule added that without any further medical or scientific bases, the 'blunt traumatic injuries, right and left upper extremities' suddenly becomes 'severe blunt traumatic injuries, both upper limbs.'

Castro cautioned on concluding what could have caused Castillo's acute kidney injury because this fatal condition could be caused by various events.

Castro said the possible causes include severe blunt trauma to the muscles, a failing heart, medicines that are toxic and excreted through the kidneys, artificially prepared foods that are toxic to the kidneys, direct blunt injury to the kidneys, or the dying stage itself.

These medical data available for analysis, a more thorough autopsy examination, including laboratory examination of relevant sample specimens, will be required to bring one closer to the determination of the cause of death, Castro explained.

The suspects' medical experts appear to be unanimous in saying that Horacio's death could not be attributed to acute tubular necrosis and congestion, according to lawyer Paterno Esmaquel, Solano's legal counsel.

Solano also assailed the credibility of Palmero, based on information that he was supposedly not a licensed pathologist, who is qualified to conduct an autopsy.

"If the report is true that Dr. Palmero is not a licensed pathologist and member of the FPSP (Fellow Philippine Society of Pathologists), then he is incompetent to conduct histopathology examination on the tissues of Horacio, much less to prepare and issue the said histopath findings, and thus, the said histopath findings of Dr. Palmero is nothing but a mere scrap of paper," Solano's rejoinder affidavit read.

"These histopath findings of Dr. Palmero do not have any evidentiary value or probative value and the same cannot and should not be used as legal basis to establish the cause of death of Horacio and/or to establish probable cause for the crime of murder and/or violation of Anti-Hazing Law resulting to death," it stressed.

He explained that their camp has asked for a copy of the report several times since filing of the criminal complaint by the MPD before the DOJ last Oct. 4, but was only provided a copy after he submitted his counter-affidavit last Oct. 24 where he raised Castillo's cause of death as an issue.

The MPD filed its complaint before the DOJ on September 25, while Atio's parents submitted a supplemental complaint on October 9.

The MPD named 18 respondents in its complaint about murder, robbery and in violation of Republic Act 8049, the Anti-Hazing Law, while Atio's parents named 31 respondents who are accused of murder, robbery, and violating the Anti-Hazing Law.

The parents also charged 23 respondents of committing four counts of perjury and obstruction of justice.

The University of Sto. Tomas (UST) law freshman died after initiation rites of the Aegis Juris fraternity on September 17.

Source: Philippine News Agency

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