CEBU

Seares: After two previous misses, they may already have Christine’s killer

News Sense

AND this Renato Llenes, drug pusher/user, 43, owned up the murder, admitted he was obsessed with her after befriending her on Facebook by using a false name and age, saying he killed her when she refused to have sex with him.

But where would that place the then 17-year-old boy the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) has charged with the prosecutor’s office for the March 10 gruesome killing in Lapu-Lapu City?

President, fiscal

President Duterte and NBI officials wouldn’t relish recalling that:

* Duterte last March 26 in a speech said he chided Lapu-Lapu City Prosecutor Ruso Zaragosa for having released the teenager, former boyfriend of Christine Lee Silawan, who was arrested for her murder. In a phone call, Duterte said, he ordered Zaragosa to reverse his ruling and have the suspect detained again.

* The NBI arrested last March 15 and charged the next working day the young suspect on the basis of circumstantial evidence from CCTV images and testimony of mutual friends of Christine and the former b.f. about the identity of images on video. It was only later that some forensic evidence came up: a trace of blood purportedly from one of his shoes matched Christine’s DNA.

Confession, red faces

Then came the confession of this Llenes, married, with five children, that he killed Christine on a vacant lot in Bankal, Lapu-Lapu City. Were some people’s faces red?

The President apparently overstepped in ordering the prosecutor to reverse his ruling, his good intention notwithstanding. But prosecutor Zaragosa was able to fix things by persuading the mother. The boy returned to the city’s home-care center for “protective custody”; no order was reversed or procedural law violated and further embarrassment was avoided.

Luck for police

As to the NBI, the agency acted on what evidence it had at the time. But it was largely circumstantial and the agency didn’t have the luck the police had: (a) catching Llenes during a buy-bust operation and (b) Llenes going into conscience-struck mode and singing like a full-throated canary.

Understandably, NBI would want to save face by pushing through with the charge. An April 11 statement from regional chief Tomas Enrile said its complaint with the prosecutor’s office would stay. The arrest of a second suspect, he said, is a “positive development.”

And he is right about the prosecution’s case. The police has a voluntary confession made in the presence of police and PAO lawyers. Plus pieces of evidence, PNP chief Oscar Albayalde told the news media Thursday (April 11) in Cebu City, which they gathered from Llenes’s reenactment of the crime. Looks like “siya ang gumawa (he did it),” said Albayalde.

Punching holes

Positive for the police case against Llenes, maybe not for the NBI case against the teenager. But the NBI may still punch holes on the currently favored theory by showing evidence that (1) it was not Llenes who did it but the teenaged suspect or (2) the boy was present during the killing as co-principal or accomplice.

The first will tend to tear down the case the police is building up. The second doesn’t have any shred of evidence yet to rest on. Llenes already hogged the entire crime: he stabbed her with scissors, by himself alone, with his own strength and skill learned from internet lessons on killing and torture.

The fair thing to do is to clear the teenager soonest by dropping the complaint and releasing him from DSWD custody.

The boy, his mother and siblings have suffered a lot already. Yet if the NBI wants to be fully sure—and the public may not begrudge the agency for that—it may examine its evidence again and what the police have and then decide promptly.

Previous misses

Eventually though, the prosecutor will rule in its preliminary investigation. Given its prudence on the question of NBI’s “hot pursuit and unlawful arrest,” fiscal Zaragosa is expected to do his job efficiently.

Unless the case holds more surprises ahead, the guy who confessed to the killing could be the right suspect this time. The previous misses: Jonas Bueno, a fugitive from a Danao murder who was arrested in Davao, and Christine’s former boyfriend, separately and erroneously tagged the primary suspects.

It’s a credit to the justice system that its devices have worked, at least for now, in this tragic violent incident involving a child victim of crime and another child in conflict with the law. As chief Albayalde would say, “Mukhang (ito) na nga.”


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