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Sunday, August 25, 2019

Malilong: Why death penalty

THE arrest in Malapascua last week of child molester Liezyl Margallo must have brought back bitter memories to the family of Ellah Joy Pique, whose abduction and murder on Feb. 8, 2011 sent shock waves to many Cebuano households.

Ellah Joy was on her way home with some of her Grade I classmates at the Calajoan Elementary School in Minglanilla when a dark-colored SUV with a Caucasian male and a Filipino woman on board slowed down and offered her a ride. She boarded the vehicle and waved goodbye to her friends.

Little did they know that the farewell was going to be her last. The following day, her naked body was found wrapped tightly in two blankets, dumped from the hill along the national highway in the southwestern town of Barili. Her parents were aghast and wept openly when they saw her in a morgue in Ronda, three towns farther.

Two days later, a Norwegian and his Cebuana fiancée from Tuburan were stopped by the police from boarding a plane at the Mactan International Airport and detained for a few days. They were subsequently released, however, because they had an airtight alibi.

Another set of suspects soon surfaced in the police investigation: a woman from Naga and her British boyfriend. Bella Ruby Santos was arrested by National Bureau of Investigation agents inside a mall in Manila after she disappeared for about five months. She had her hair cropped by then.

She was charged in court along with her boyfriend but because Ian Charles Griffiths was already back in London and thus outside the jurisdiction of Philippine courts, only Santos was tried. Three years after, her case was dismissed by Judge Ester Veloso who found the evidence against the accused insufficient.

Just as they did when the certainty of their daughter’s death confronted them, Ellah Joy’s parents wept again. Justice has eluded them until today. The reward money of P200,000 that my friends and I raised remains untouched in the custody of Dra. Mila Tolentino.

Four years ago, Msgr. Carmelo Diola and Thelma Chiong appeared in Frankahay Ta! on Radio 5. In 1997, Thelma lost to kidnappers her two young daujghters, the body of one of whom has never been found. We discussed the death penalty.

Msgr. Diola admitted that there were times when he, too, favored the death penalty especially after he read about a heinous crime. But after the emotions had subsided and reason had taken over, he realized that no man has the right to take away the gift of life, he said.

Thelma was understandably resolute in her support of the death penalty. One who takes away the life of another especially under circumstances similar to the kidnap-slay of her daughters should be made to pay with his own life, she said.

My own feelings on the issue had been ambivalent until I read about Margallo and remembered Ellah Joy. And I assure you reason had long taken over my emotions when I took this position.
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