Mark Chua’s dad dies; search for justice goes on

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WHILE another suspect in the killing of former UST ROTC cadet Mark Welson Chua has been put behind bars, the Chua family continues to seek justice for Mark—but now without his father.

A week after former UST ROTC cadet officer Eduardo Tabrilla pleaded guilty to homicide at the Manila Regional Trial Court branch 18, Welson Chua, who had diabetes, died of a heart attack last Feb. 23 at the call center where he worked as trainer.

But Amelita, Mark’s mother, told the Varsitarian that their half-decade fight for justice will continue.

Tabrilla was sentenced to an imprisonment of six years and one day to 14 years.

In his last interview with the Varsitarian in late January, Welson said all he wanted from Tabrilla was the full story behind Mark’s death so he could have “closure”.

Before Welson’s untimely death, Tabrilla wrote a statement narrating the events that led to Mark’s killing, Amelita said. She, however, refused to reveal the information for security purposes.

The Chua family hopes that the authorities will find the remaining suspects, former UST ROTC officers Paul Joseph Tan and John Von Rainard Manangbao, who are reportedly outside the country. Arnulfo Aparri, the other cadet who was charged with the murder, was sentenced to death in 2004.

Two months after he exposed the corruption in the UST-ROTC, Mark, then a 19-year-old Mechanical Engineering sophomore, was abducted on campus and was beaten at the UST Department of Military Science and Tactics (DMST) office on March 15, 2001. His decomposing body was fished out of the Pasig River three days later. His body had been rolled in a carpet, his hands and feet were hogtied, and his head was wrapped with duct tape.

Hailed for the wrong cause

The killing added fuel to calls to abolish the ROTC for corruption and mismanagement. The Congress enacted the National Service Training Program (NSTP) Law that optionalized enrollment in the ROTC program. The Literacy Training Service and Citizen’s Welfare Training Service were added as options.

But the older Chua had said that if Mark were still alive, he would not have wanted this turnout.

“Mark did not want to abolish the ROTC,” Welson said. “It’s not the institution, it’s the way it’s being run.”

Instead of eradicating the anomalies, Welson said, the move might have encouraged more corruption in the two new programs launched by the government under NSTP.

“Instead of one ROTC, now the government and the universities would have two other departments to look after,” Welson said. “These departments can be corrupt too.”

Unclaimed merits

Before Welson died, he said Rector Fr. Tamerlane Lana, O.P. mentioned that the University would rename the DMST office after Mark and erect a statue in his honor.

“They promised that they would rename the DMST office and they would erect a statue,” said Welson, who also blamed the University’s lax security for the death of his son. “They have to start doing what they said they would do.”

According to Alwin Magno, Mark’s stepfather, Lana mentioned the plan during the Mass for the Lorenzo Ruiz awarding ceremony dedicated to Mark in June 2001.

Lana, however, told the Varsitarian that he neither promised to rename the UST DMST office after Mark nor to erect a statue. Although there were proposals before from the government, Lana said, nothing official has reached his office.

“I’ve been trying to recall if I promised it but up to now I don’t remember if I made that,” he said. “But we will consider it. I will propose the idea to the Board of Regents and the Academic Senate, but of course, there has to be an approval from the Department of National Defense.”

A plan to rename the office was first mentioned in an article published in the Varsitarian on May 31, 2001. In the article, the University was supposed to rename the office upon the recommendation of Army Col. Froilan Maglaya, then chief of National Capital Region Reserve Command Defense group. In another story published on July 11 that year, Maglaya approved the renaming of the office after Mark.

Amelita said her family did not propose the honors that Welson claimed for their son.

“It was not the family who asked for the statue and the renaming of the office,” she said. “It was the University who told us about them.” Marlene H. Elmenzo

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