THe Father of slain UST-Reserved Officers Training Course (ROTC) whistleblower Mark Welson Chua is amenable to a plea-bargaining offer if a recently arrested suspect will tell everything he knows about the killing of his son.

The suspect, Eduardo Tabrilla, a former UST ROTC cadet officer, is scheduled to be arraigned on Feb. 15, said Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 18 clerk-of-court Atty. Carolina Comon.

After speaking with Tabrilla and his family, Welson Chua, Mark’s father, was assured that the suspect would shed light on the case.

“In my conversation with Tabrilla, he told me he will show his regret through his cooperation’,” Chua said. “I said all I am asking is for the truth so I can have closure.”

Chua hopes that Tabrilla would truthfully and corroborate the statements of the others witnesses.

“It depends on the statement because if he does not tell the truth, then we will go ahead with the trial and let the court decide whether death will be the appropriate penalty,” he said.

During plea bargaining, the defendant agrees to plead guilty to a criminal charge and waives his right to trial for the prosecutor to drop more serious charges against the accused.

The police had found Tabrilla with a relative in Dasmariñas, Cavite November last year, newspaper accounts said. He had been in hiding for four years.

According to Welson Chua, Tabrilla’s location was divulged when he bragged to a police asset that he was evading murder raps in Manila.

“Nobody had to do anything,” Chua said. “With what happened to Ed (Tabrilla), in just four years, God just sent an intelligence agent and now he is in jail. It is his time.”

Conductors of the next generation

Chua said Tabrilla was even able to work and get an NBI clearance prior to the arrest.

After resigning as an ROTC officer in December 2000, Mark and fellow cadet Romulo Yumul, led other cadets in filing complaints of bribery and extortion against the UST Department of Military Science and Tactics with the Department of National Defense and the then UST Office for Student Affairs and Community Services. The complaints became the subject of a Varsitarian Special Reports article published on Feb. 21, 2001. They also resulted in the dismissal of several ROTC staff members and the relief of then DMST commandant Maj. Demy Tejares.

On March 18, 2001, Mark’s brutalized body was fished out of the Pasig River behind the National Press Club Building in Intramuros. His hands and feet were hogtied with shoe laces, his head was wrapped with cloth and duct tape, while his whole body was wrapped in a carpet. According to the autopsy report, Mark died due to asphyxia or suffocation.

Ensuing police investigations implicated four UST ROTC cadet officers to Mark’s death: Arnulfo Appari, Michael Von Rainard Manangbao, Eduardo Tabrilla, and Paul Joseph Tan.

Appari was sentenced to death by a Manila RTC in April 2004. Tan and Manangbao, however, are still at large. Manangbao, a former Corps Commander, is said to be hiding in the United States, while Tan is believed to be in Malaysia, Chua said. Appari’s case is now under automatic review with the Supreme Court.

“I really do not want anybody to be sentenced to death,” Chua said. “I am the chief of sinners too. And I have experienced forgiveness from God and if you realize that, it is not hard to forgive,” he said.

Student Center bans 'Styro'

The killing also spurred the movement to abolish the ROTC. UST Rector Fr. Tamerlane Lana, O.P., led the University Belt Consortium, a loose federation of major universities and colleges, to issue an extraordinary statement urging that ROTC be made non-compulsory so as to stamp out corruption in the program.

In 2001, Congress passed the National Service Training Act in which ROTC was made non-compulsory. College students were given the option to take up Literacy Training Service or Civic Welfare Training Service instead of ROTC. Marlene H. Elmenzo and Jose Teodoro B. Mendoza


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