AUTHORITIES have yet to find the body of Gisela Bendong-Boniel, the 38-year-old mayor of Bien Unido, Bohol.
She was kidnapped and killed at dawn yesterday.
The police's prime suspect is her husband, Provincial Board (PB) Member Niño Rey Boniel.
The Police Regional Office (PRO) 7 tried to look for Gisela in the waters off Caubian Island in Lapu-Lapu City for two hours last night, to no avail.
Riolito Boniel, Niño's cousin, accompanied the police during the search, giving them directions were Gisela's body was thrown.
Riolito was among five suspects, who were caught in Bohol yesterday.
“As to the motive of the crime, they have a lot of problems as husband and wife like finances, family problem and allegedly a third party is involved,” PRO 7 Director Noli Taliño said in Tagalog.
Two divers from Olango Island were tapped to conduct the search, which started at 6 p.m. and ended at 8:25 p.m.
Reiniro Tatoy, a diving instructor, said they will resume the search today because it was already dark and it was high tide.
He believes Gisela's body is still in the area and has not been carried off by the current.
Riolito told police that Niño shot Gisela while they were on board a boat.
"Niño was the only one armed. He used his own gun," Riolito said in Cebuano.
Riolito, a resident of Talibon, Bohol, said his cousin called him to come to Bien Unido and to bring a pump boat.
Riolito is a Buen Unido municipal employee, who is assigned to operate a banca used to monitor municipal waters.
Authorities would not have known about Gisela's death had it not been for her bestfriend and confidante, Angela Leyson, and the latter's 17-year-old son, who reported the matter to the Lapu-Lapu City Police Office (LLCPO).
Leyson said that they went to the Commission on Audit in Tagbilaran City to file a graft and corruption case and Gisela's annulment papers.
Leyson said a Wilson Juliar, a certain Brian and their driver Randel Lopas were in a hurry for them to return to Bien Unido last Tuesday.
"I warned Gisela that I felt that something was wrong because they were really pushing for us to go back," she said.
They arrived in the town at 11 p.m.
"We were resting inside the Double Barrier Reef Dive Camp & Dive Site in Bien Unido, tired after filing the case. At around 2 a.m. on Wednesday, I woke to find six to eight men barging into our room and duct-taping my face and my neck," Leyson said.
She said the men also used a stun gun on her and held her at gunpoint while Gisela pleaded to her husband to spare her.
She knew Gisela was talking to her husband because she called him by his nickname “In-in.”
Leyson said she fainted when she was hit in the head with the butt of the gun, but not before seeing her friend getting punched in the stomach.
While she and her son were brought to a waiting vehicle, she said she saw Niño's official pickup.
"We were transported to the Tubigon port where they gave us three tickets but Gisela was not with us. I can't believe she's dead," Leyson said.
"Gisela wanted to leave the marriage because she felt she was being used because of her position. She's also a pilot. She had a career,” Leyson said.
Riolito said he stayed on the banca while Niño and men went to the dive camp.
They returned with only Gisela in tow. He said Niño talked for a bit, and then the latter shot Gisela.
“The board member and his men wrapped her body with a fish net and placed two rocks inside. I was among those who held the fish net because Niño asked me to help,” Riolito said in Cebuano.
“I trusted Niño when he texted and called me earlier because he's my cousin. I had no idea he was going to kill his wife,” he said in Cebuano.
After the LLCPO alerted the Regional Intelligence Division about the kidnapping, the Bohol Provincial Police Office invited Niño for questioning.
After evidence and witnesses pointed to him as the mastermind of the kidnapping, Niño was arrested and flown in to Cebu City yesterday morning.
"Our witnesses were afraid to go back to Bohol so that's why the board member was flown here for the rest of the investigation," Taliño said.
In an interview inside the detention cell of the Regional Special Operations Task Group, Niño shook and bowed his head when asked why he killed his wife.
"Lawom kaayo (ang rason). Mangayo lang kog dispensa (It's complicated. I just ask for forgiveness)," he said.
He said the incident had nothing to with his stint as ex-mayor of Bien Unido, a fourth-class municipality, for three terms, or nine years.
Gisela, a Cebuano, was a pilot for 16 years. She became AirAsia Philippines' first female captain.
She resigned to run as mayor in last year's elections.
The couple, who were married in December 2015, have a three-year-old son.
Taliño said that there was a blotter report at the Guadalupe Police Station about a mauling incident involving the two.
The news of her death shocked the aviation community with Gisela's co-pilots and colleagues extending their grief and condolences.
Charges for kidnapping, murder and serious physical injuries will be filed against Niño, Riolito and a certain Lopas.
Police have yet to announce the names of the other arrested persons while a manhunt is on for four others.