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How dangerous is hazing in Philippines? Horatio ‘Atio’ Castillo III death witness may be in a witness protection program

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A member of the Aegis Juris fraternity who took part in the initiation rites for Horacio “Atio” Castillo III has been provisionally accepted into the government’s witness protection program, Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II said Wednesday.

Aguirre identified the Aegis Juris member as Mark Ventura, who was accompanied by his mother and lawyer in a meeting with Aguirre on Tuesday afternoon.

Ventura is one of the respondents in the several complaints filed by the Manila Police District and Castillo’s parents over the death of the freshman law student of the University of Tomas (UST).

“Mr. Ventura narrated to us what he knew about what happened to Horatio ‘Atio’ Castillo III from the time of his admission as a neophyte of the Aegis Juris Fraternity until his initiation rites on the early morning of September 17, 2017,” Aguirre said in a press conference.

“Mr. Ventura gave us the names of the persons who were present during the initiation rites of Mr. Atio Castillo III. After hearing the narration of Mr. Ventura, I immediately decided to place him under provisional acceptance into the WPP,” he added.

Aguirre said Ventura has already executed an affidavit which would be used as basis for  his formal admission into the WPP.

“Mr. Ventura’s decision to seek admission into our WPP is a most welcome development in this case as we all endeavor to give justice to Atio’s untimely demise,” the Justice secretary said.

By Hank Nuwer

Journalist Hank Nuwer is the Alaska author of Hazing: Destroying Young Lives; Broken Pledges: The Deadly Rite of Hazing, High School Hazing, Wrongs of Passage and The Hazing Reader. In April of 2024, the Alaska Press Club awarded him first place in the Best Columnist division and Best Humorist, second place.

He has written articles or columns on hazing for the Sunday Times of India, Toronto Globe & Mail, Harper's Magazine, Orlando Sentinel, The Chronicle of Higher Education and the New York Times Sunday Magazine. His current book is Hazing: Destroying Young Lives from Indiana University Press. He is married to Malgorzata Wroblewska Nuwer of Warsaw, Poland and Fairbanks, Alaska. Nuwer is a former columnist for the Greenville (Ohio)Early Bird and former managing editor of the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner in Alaska.
Nuwer was named the Ohio Society of Professional Journalists columnist of the year in 2021 for his “After Darke” column in the Early Bird. He also won third place for the column in 2022 from the Indiana chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. He and his wife Gosia, recently of Union City, Ind., have owned 20 acres in Alaska for many years. “The move is a sort-of coming home for us,” said Nuwer. As a journalist, he’s written about the Alaskan Iditarod sled-dog race and other Alaska topics. Read his musings in his blog at Real Alaska Daily--http://realalaskadaily.com and in his weekly column "Far from Randolph" in the Winchester Star-Gazette of Randolph County, Indiana.

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