Lawyer wants media explanation over leaked Ventura testimony

Horacio Tpmas Castillo III, the UST law student.-Sourced photo

Paris Real, counsel of Alex Bose, one of the 23 suspects supposedly named by Ventura in his affidavit, has manifested to the panel of prosecutors handling the hazing case that a show cause order should be issued against members of the media for reporting the contents of Ventura’s affidavit.

He said that the sworn statement of Ventura is supposed to be confidential in nature now that he had been admitted to the witness protection program on the basis of the sworn statement which they executed.

Real said that particular sworn statement had not yet been formally submitted to the panel.

“We have prepared a motion practically to at least require the concerned media personalities to explain, show cause why at least no disciplinary actions have been meted out against them or at least that they should have been held criminally liable for violation of Section 7 of the Witness Protection Program Act in light of the fact that the procurement of that particular sworn statement of Mr. Ventura had been done without any written authority from the Department Secretary as well as no written order to that effect in which case that is clearly penalized and a serious violation of Section 7 of the Witness Protection Program Act,” he explained.

“We are not going to sue you, we are not going to take any drastic actions against you. What we are practically saying is that, if the media would want to do something, at least everything has to be done legally especially so that, because of what you did, the respondents especially the innocent ones, have been practically vilified, embarrassed, including the reputation of the respective families so it’s tantamount to online libel,” Real told reporters after the hearing on Castillo’s case on Monday.

When asked regarding Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II who personally revealed the content of Ventura’s affidavit, Real answered: “No, there’s a difference between the discussion, at least the announcement of the Secretary which was somehow general and the discussion which have been made on the basis of the sworn affidavit.”

The panel of prosecutors said Real should file an official motion before the office of the Justice Secretary.

Villanueva said that even the panel has not yet received the copy of affidavit of Ventura.

Ventura has never appeared at the DOJ hearings and has not sent a counsel to represent him.

Last Monday, Ventura did not submit his counter-affidavit in response to the criminal complaints against him and other respondents as the panel of prosecutors pointed out that was the last chance for him to do so.

Ventura had already signed last October 25 a memorandum of agreement with the DOJ to have him placed under the Witness Protection Program (WPP) as he decided to turn state witness over the death of the fraternity’s neophyte.

During the press conference last October 25, Aguirre narrated the affidavit of Ventura, who is also a respondent in the case, detailed that Castillo’s arms were punched until they were black and blue and swollen.

A show cause order requires the parties to explain an incident to the court.

Earlier, Aguirre issued a statement that they will file charges against reporters who have reported on the contents of the “confidential” affidavit of Ventura.
Aguirre said that reporting on Ventura’s affidavit, without authorization from the DOJ, is a violation of Section 7 of Republic Act No. 6981 or “An Act Providing For A Witness Protection, Security And Benefit Program And For Other Purposes.”

The Justice chief said this after a copy of Ventura’s affidavit was leaked to a reporter of GMA Network’s news radio arm DZBB who, citing the document, revealed the identities of fraternity members present during the initiation rites of slain UST law freshman Horacio Castillo III.

In his affidavit, Ventura testified how the fraternity’s members physically abused and humiliated Horacio until he collapsed after four hours of the controversial initiation rites at the Aegis Juris fraternity library believed to have led to his death.

Aguirre stressed that his office has not issued any written order authorizing the release of any copy of the affidavit submitted by Ventura to the Witness Protection Program (WPP).

But during the press conference Aguirre revealed in great detail the contents of Ventura’s affidavit and promised to provide the media a copy after Ventura signs the document placing him under full coverage of the WPP.

When the DZBB report started circulating on the Internet, DOJ spokesman Usec. Erickson Balmes told reporters that Ventura’s sworn statement is confidential and that they refuse to provide a certified copy of the document.

“And maybe there is a development in the case like a new witness perhaps so as not to say there may be facts that may be copied, please bear with us for now,” Balmes said.

In a related development, the parents of Castillo could file another set of criminal complaints before DOJ based on the Ventura’s sworn statement.
Atty. Lino Kapunan, one of the legal counsels of Atio’s parents, said Ventura’s affidavit could also be attached in the next pleading they intend to file before the DOJ on October 9.

“It’s either ilabas namins a reply, dahil sa kabila sabi nila bawal na maglabas, or pwede mag-file ng separate complaint naman (We could attach it in our reply to the counter-affidavits of the respondents but, since the defense lawyers have opposed against submitting more evidence, we could file another set of complaints),” said Kapunan.

The DOJ is currently conducting a preliminary investigation over the criminal complaints filed by the Manila Police District (MPD) and Atio’s parents — Horacio Jr. and Carmina — against those allegedly involved in the death of the University of Sto. Tomas (UST) law freshman, including Ventura who is still named as one of the respondents.

Kapunan said Atio’s parents have yet to receive a copy and read the sworn statement of Ventura.

“Actually hindi pa naming nababasa yun ang problema. So pag-aaralan muna naming kung paano naming gagamitin (We have not yet read Ventura’s sworn statement. So we still have to study how we can make use of it),” said Kapunan.

“The parents requested the copy already,” the lawyer added.

The panel of prosecutors set the submission of a reply on November 9 while November 16 will be the filing of the rejoinder. (PNA)