Whether or not he had a heart condition, Atio died from hazing injury: doctors, Lacson

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John Paul Solano, testifying at an earlier hearing on Atio Castillo's killing. PNA PHOTO BY AVITO C. DALAN

MANILA – Doctors at the Senate hearing on the hazing death of Horacio Castillo III refuted John Paul Solano’s defense that the 22-year-old law student died not because of hazing but due to pre-existing heart conditions.

Dr. Maria Cecilia Lim, forensic pathologist with the University of the Philippines College of Medicine, said she agreed with the report of the Philippine National Police that Castillo suffered acute kidney failure.

“I would agree with the impression of the Philippines National Police that the patient had an acute kidney failure, secondary to the rhabdomyolysis, secondary to the multiple blunt force trauma,” Lim said.

Senator Grace Poe asked, “So ibig sabihin, kung nagkaroon man ng pagtigil ng pagtibok ng kanyang puso at nag-fail ang kanyang mga organs, hindi na gumana dahil ito sa kanyang natamong pagbugbog [So that means, if his heart stopped beating and his organs failed, these happened as a result of the trauma he suffered]?”

“Yes ma’am. I think it goes back to Senator Lacson’s statement earlier of the proximate cause of death. It doesn’t matter what the immediate cause of death is, the bottom line is the multiple traumatic injuries,” Dr. Lim replied.

Senator Panfilo Lacson, who chairs the inquiry that resumed hearings Monday morning, had cited the proximate cause principle when he quizzed Solano regarding his defense on Castillo’s cause of death. Lacson appeared miffed by the earlier assertion of Solano – a medical technologist taking up law at UST – that Castillo had a “pre-existing heart condition” which made him succumb on Sept. 17, 2017, after five hours of initiation rites.

Lacson lectured Solano that regardless of any pre-existing condition – granting Solano is right – the proximate cause of death makes an aggressor liable for it. In this case, the injuries caused by the Aegis Juris fratmen who conducted the hazing.

Meanwhile, Dr. Clarissa Cledera, the resident doctor at the Chinese General Hospital who attended to Castillo, said she observed that the University of Sto. Tomas (UST) law student had hematoma on both upper limbs.

She also said there was already a discoloration on Castillo’s arms when they attended to him.

“He was wearing a short-sleeved t-shirt, so initially when we were checking him we noticed some pink bruises from the sleeves. That’s when we lifted it up, and saw the extent of the bruises; and candle marks pas well,” Cledera said, speaking partly in Filipino.

Solano explained to senators that his defense before the investigating panel of the Department of Justice (DOJ) was based on the medico-legal report of the PNP and the death certificate.

He further said that the medico-legal report of the PNP indicated that Castillo’s cause of death was hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM), which he claimed was Castillo’s pre-existing heart condition.

“I just commented on the document that the MPD provided along with the case investigation. Because I had no idea what really happened to Atio. My comment, your honor, was based on what was stated as cause of death that they provided,” Solano said, speaking in Filipino.

Though he claimed he was not at the hazing but was only called in when Atio became unresponsive, Solano was included as a respondent in the law student’s death because he had initially misled police investigators and had failed to submit the full narrative he promised to authorities.

On Monday, he also said he was not aware of the severity of the bruises that Castillo sustained from the initiation rites.

However, Dr. Joel Palmero, medico-legal doctor of the Manila Police District (MPD), clarified that Solano was citing their provisional anatomical diagnosis, and not the cause of death.

“What Solano is trying to say is the provisional anatomical diagnosis. Because we released the provisional anatomical diagnosis of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy because the heart is enlarged during autopsy. And there’s a traumatic injury of right and left upper extremities. Those are provisional anatomical diagnosis,” Palmero said.

“After several days, we released the final medico-legal report with the cause of death as severe blunt traumatic injuries,” the doctor stressed.

Meanwhile, Solano said he was puzzled by the diagnosis of the police, and that was why his camp sent a letter to the MPD on Oct. 5 to clarify Castillo’s cause of death and to request for histopathological report.

“Since wala pong dumarating sa amin mula Oct. 5, ‘yan na po ang ginawa namin,” he said. “If ever naman mag-adverse yung histopathological report, hindi naman po kami gagawin ng alternative defense sa cause of death,” he added.

Still, he maintained that the cause of death was Castillo’s pre-existing heart condition, saying he had no knowledge of what Castillo endured before bringing his body to the hospital.

Ang unang pumasok sa isip kong [The first thing that came to my mind as the] cause [is the] pre-existing heart condition. Kasi ‘yun din po ang nakalagay since sa medico-legal is doon din po sa puso, malaki rin po ‘yung puso [Because that was also in the medico-legal report–his heart was enlarged],” Solano told senators.

This prompted Senator Grace Poe to comment,”so hindi sa tingin mo ang kanyang ikinamatay — nagtaka ka pero sumasang-ayon ka rin sa report. That’s contradictory.”

Meanwhile, both Senator Lacson and Senator Miguel “Migz” Zubiri said Solano’s defense will not stand in court.