THE primary suspect in the killing of a 60-year-old farmer in Danao City, who was also identified as a person of interest in the grisly murder of 16-year-old Christine Lee Silawan, was arrested in Davao City on Friday.
Jonas Martel Bueno was arrested by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI)-Davao and the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) Davao City, soon after the bounty for the killers of Silawan reached P2 million.
Silawan’s mutilated half-naked body was found on Monday, March 11, in Barangay Bankal, Lapu-Lapu City two months after Trinidad Batucan’s mutilated body was found inside his residence in a mountain barangay in Danao City on Jan. 11.
Silawan’s face had been skinned, and some of her body parts removed.
The interest in Silawan’s murder has generated such a public outcry that President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday gave marching orders to the Philippine National Police (PNP) to solve the crime immediately.
The bounty for the young girl’s killers also grew from P1.8 million on Wednesday to P2 million as of Thursday night.
But on Friday, conflicting reports quoting Police Regional Office (PRO) 7 Director Debold Sinas tagging Bueno as one of the principal suspects in Silawan’s murder, surfaced in an online news site in Manila.
In the news report posted at 12 midnight, Sinas was quoted to have ordered a manhunt operation against Bueno and two unidentified companions after they were sighted in Sogod town in Cebu around 6 p.m. of March 12, a day after Silawan’s murder.
Central Visayas police intelligence chief Senior Supt. Remus Medina was also quoted to have said that the modus employed by Bueno and his companions was similar in the killing of Batucan.
The report was contrary to what Lapu-Lapu City Police Office Director Limuel Obon had said since Day 1 of the investigation. Obon had steadfastly refused to disclose the name of the person of interest in Silawan’s case.
“It’s fake news,” Obon said.
He said they have been very careful in the investigation so that the person they will pin down will not be a “fake suspect.”
“If in the future, we should say, by chance, that this is really the suspect after follow-up operations that we conducted, confirmations that we will not be questioned in different angles that he is indeed the suspect, it will be a pity that he (Bueno) who was shown in public, may not be the (real) suspect,” Obon said.
Not POI or suspect
Sinas in a press conference called Friday afternoon denied the report.
“Where did they get it? He is not even a person of interest, but we are studying the similarity of the cases,” Sinas said.
He also denied Bueno was a suspect as there was no evidence to pinpoint him. “Pwede man nga naa copycat (It’s possible there is a copycat),” he said.
Bueno has an arrest warrant for murder issued by Danao City Regional Trial Court Branch 25 Judge Jerry Dicdican over Batucan’s killing, during which Batucan’s skin on the face and chest were removed.
He instructed the PNP Crime lab to conduct a scientific investigation to compare the Danao killing and Silawan’s murder.
If the results will coincide, this will be the time that the PRO 7 will decide if this was a case of serial killing.
“We are thinking that once the medico-legal officer will return, since they are in Manila to consult with their chief, if they have an expert, so that we could shed light if Jonas has an involvement based on the type of modus or type of killing. If it will turn out that it’s him, then it’s like serial killing,” Sinas said in a mix of English and Filipino.
He said they already had a lead and had gathered evidence to pinpoint the real suspect.
CIDG Davao Field United head Police Chief Inspector Milgrace Driz said Bueno was located after his Facebook account using the name “Jason Martil” circulated online, giving them the lead to his location.
“Naay CI ang name kasi ginamit Jason Martil sa FB. Sa FB nikalat. Nakakuha ta informant same feature sa face,” Driz said.
Bueno is now detained at the NBI Davao Region.
During interrogation, Bueno denied killing Silawan.
The Special Investigation Task Group (SITG) which Obon heads, together with the CIDG 7, are working together to gather more evidence.
Supt. Carlito Patay, CIDG 7 chief, said they are now looking at 3 CCTV units that have footage that caught Silawan riding a motorcycle.
But they could not find any clear footage of her on the motorcycle, such as of her being brought to a vacant lot in sitio Mahayahay, Barangay Bankal.
“There was a CCTV camera in the area leading to where she was thrown, but it was dark. Had it been daytime, the footage would have been clear. If it’s night time, you will only see it’s black,” Patay said in Cebuano.
The SITG suspects that Silawan was killed in a different place and was thrown in Mahayahay a few hours later.
A person with disability who witnessed the incident said Silawan was killed at 2 a.m. on Monday.
The witness saw Silawan run away from her captors, but three men onboard a motorcycle ran after her and captured her.
Meanwhile, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra has ordered National Bureau of Investigation Director Dante Gierran to conduct a probe and create a case build-up.
Sinas said they are now coordinating with the NBI to unify their investigation.
The chief psychiatrist of Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center (VSMMC) said the persons involved in Silawan’s case may be under the influence of illegal drugs upon the commission of the crime or were “psychopaths.”
Dr. Rene Obra, head of the VSMMC-Center for Behavioral Sciences, said only a mentally unstable person could carry out such a brutal crime.
“It’s difficult to comment, but one thing for sure they have no respect for humans due to some form of psychopathology,” Obra said. (from JCR OF SunStar Davao, KAL, AYB and GCM of Superbalita Cebu)