NEARLY two years after Mark Chua was murdered for exposing anomalies in the Reserved Officers Training Corps (ROTC), the investigation is going nowhere, witnesses and even a former military commandant are being harassed, and the principal suspects are at large. The only suspect in custody is living the life of a king, passing the time by videoke in his prison cell.

No wonder, Mark Welson Chua, the victim’s father, said he has thrown in the towel “for now.” He said he doesn’t expect justice for his son anytime soon.

In an interview with the Varsitarian, Welson Chua accused the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) of bungling the case. He explained that Special Action Unit head (SAU) Edmund Arugay and his agents had planted evidence against brothers Genesis and Jeffrey Binagatan, who had been arrested for the killing. Later, witnesses said they had been instructed to point the brothers in a police line-up.

Rico Nicolan, 14, said he was instructed by Roland Agrabioso and Rosauro Bautista of the NBI-SAU to identify Genesis as among those who dumped a wrapped object with the size and shape of a man into the Pasig River at 2 a.m on March 16, 2001.

“Ako ay umalis sa pangangalaga ng NBI dahil hindi ko makayanan ang araw-araw na pagsasabi at pagtuturo sa akin na panindigan ang aking ginawang kasinungalingan para ipahamak ang isang taong walang kasalanan at kinalaman sa pagkamatay ni Chua,” Nicolan said in his statement filed at NBI.

It has been almost two years since the lifeless body of Mark Chua was fished out of the river, wrapped in a carpet and his head and arms tied by packaging tape. Mark, together with fellow Engineering student Romulo Yumul, exposed the corrupt dealings of UST-Department of Military Science and Tactics (DMST), which led to the dismissal of then Commandant Major Demy Tejares and his staff, including the Binagatan brothers.

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Agrabioso, now the National Capital Region executive office supervising agent, denied Nicolan’s accusation.

“Sinabi nila pinilit at tinakot namin sila. Of course, hindi namin gawain dito ‘yon,” Agrabioso said in a phone interview.

He said he was surprised by the witness’ recantation. He explained the witness was discovered during an ocular inspection of the area where Mark was thrown.

“Nagkainteres kami at sa haba–haba nakumbinsi namin na mag-execute siya ng statement sa nakita niya, nagpa-video, at pictures pa siya,” he said.

According to Agrabioso, the witness positively identified Genesis Binagatan without coercion from NBI agents.

Due to Nicolan’s retraction, the Binagatan brothers were released from detention.

Agrabioso said there is still another witness with the NBI.

Another set of suspects were identified ¾ former Corps Commander Michael Von Rainard Manangbao, cadet officers Paul Joseph Tan, Arnulfo Aparri, and Eduardo Tabrilla. Manangbao, Tan, and Tabrilla are still at large.

Cadet officer Arnulfo Aparri, who surrendered, was transferred from the NBI detention cell to city jail. “We saw that he was having a good time there (NBI). Parang bahay (kasi) nagvi-videoke pa nga,” Chua said.

“I don’t want vengeance. I just want people to see that they can not get away with it,” he added.

Witnesses harassed

Cadet officers Franco Suelto and Jeremy Dunuan, who identified the new set of suspects fear for their security. In their statement to the NBI, Suelto and Dunuan said that they saw the body of Mark Chua wrapped in a carpet in the DMST office on the night of March 16, 2001.

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Chua said that witness Suelto was harassed by Cely Tan, former vice mayor of Lamitan, Basilan and aunt of suspect Paul Tan.

“We had to rescue him. (Suelto) was the one who cemented the story,” Chua said.

Tan, according to Chua, harassed even former commandant Colonel Meliton Sangria in the DMST office. Tan reportedly screamed at Sangria, even threatening him.

The Varsitarian tried to get the side of Sangria but Sangria had been relieved as commandant of UST-DMST since Nov. 1.

A phone interview with Major Emmanuel Sison, National Capital Region Reserved Corp Division Group Intelligence Chief and assigned tactical officer for UST, confirmed Chua’s story. “Kumontak sa akin si Suelto, humihingi ng tulong. Meron daw mga armadong mama sa labas ng bahay nila,”

Sison then instructed Suelto to hide and not leave his house. He brought four military men to secure the witness. Suelto was brought to Dr. Evelyn Songco, assistant to the rector for student affairs.

Along the way, they picked up Dunuan. Sison said Dunuan’s sibling claimed that they were being watched.

Sison likewise confirmed the harassment of the former commandant, saying that Cely Tan brought three bodyguards. Tan’s male companion was allegedly shouting, “Kayong mga sinungaling kayo! Kami binaligtad ninyo!”

Meanwhile, Chua said the UST administration must follow up on its resolutions. “They promised that the DMST office will be called the Mark Chua Hall. Nasaan na?”

UST help

Student Welfare and Development Board Director Professor Zenaida Famorca said that UST is providing assistance and security to the student witnesses.

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“UST is coordinating with the appropriate departments in order to ensure their safety,” Famorca said.

According to Famorca, the administration has “been very supportive, especially of Suelto.”

On the Mark Chua Hall issue, Famorca said she would check if indeed UST had made the promise.

Famorca said that UST “would like to have justice for Mark because he was our student and I personally had dealings with him when he was still alive.”

“I believe that he really felt at that time that he was fighting for a very noble cause. And this is the kind of formation we want our students to have – to have ideals and to have conviction to fight for their ideals,” Famorca said. Maria Pacita C. Joson

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