By Hannah Torregoza
The much-anticipated testimony of suspect-turned-witness Marc Anthony Ventura, a member of the Aegis Juris fraternity, turned out to be a letdown for senators.
Ventura appeared at the third hearing of the Senate committee public order and dangerous drugs today but refused to name the members of the fraternity who were present when Horacio “Atio” Castillo III, a law freshman at the University of Santo Tomas (UST), was subjected to initiation rites on September 17.
“I’m sorry po your honor. Although, I’m very willing po to tell the truth and nothing but the truth, in-advisan po kasi ako na hindi po ako magbanggit ng iba pong details po specifically po yung mga names po at doon po sa (I was advised that I will not mention other details, specifically the names and at the) proper court I will comply po,” Ventura said when he responded to Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian’s questioning.
Ventura, who is already under the government’s Witness Protection Program (WPP), admitted he was present when the hazing started at 8 p.m. on September 16.
But when asked how many frat members hit Castillo with a paddle, he apologized again saying he could not answer the question.
Gatchalian pressed further and when asked to at least say how many people had hit Castillo, Ventura said: “Apat po (Four).”
He denied however that he was one of those who beat up Castillo. He also declined to disclose what happened after the law freshman student collapsed.
“Sorry po, hindi ko po pwedeng i-discuss po. Pasensya na po your honor (I cannot discuss [what happened]. Sorry your honor),” he told senators.
Gatchalian then asked Ventura why they did not bring Castillo immediately to the hospital, noting it took them 30 to 40 minutes before his body was brought to the Chinese General Hospital.
Ventura said they were very rattled and afraid and somebody prevented them from bringing Castillo to a hospital. But he did not elaborate.
Yet Ventura said he was finally convinced to testify against his “brods” and disclose to authorities his knowledge and participation during the hazing activity after he was advised by his family.
Ventura also told senators he has changed his lawyers for the criminal complaints he is facing before the Department of Justice (DOJ). His present legal counsel, he said, are no longer members of the Aegis Juris.
“Nakausap ko po kasi yung pamilya ko po and ito po ang sinabi nila sa akin na magsabi po ng totoo. Yun lang po ang gusto namin (I talked to my family and they told me to tell the truth. That’s what we want),” Ventura said, responding to Sen. Grace Poe’s question.
“Mas palagay po ako sa bago kong abogado kasi yung abogado ko po ngayon ay isang kapamilya ko po (I’m more comfortable with my new lawyer because my lawyer now is a family member,” he added.
Sen. Panfilo “Ping” Lacson said he initially doubted Ventura’s testimony saying he could have been planted to muddle the investigation.
“Sinabi ko ang posibilidad, parang wina-warning-an ko lang ang DOJ, ang prosecutor-general na baka may possibility na Trojan horse ito para masira ang kaso (I mentioned the possibility as if I’m warning the DOJ, the prosecutor-general, that there’s a possibility that this is a Trojan horse that would destroy the case),” Lacson said when interviewed after the hearing.
“But on second thought, the mere fact that he changed lawyers from AJF members to non-AJF members, that’s indication enough that he’s already severing ties with AJF by testifying against his fellow frat members,” Lacson said.
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