FORMER UST-ROTC Commandant Maj. Demy Tejares has broken his silence and implicated his successor in the UST Reserved Officers Training Corps (ROTC) and five dismissed corps cadets for the murder of the Mechanical Engineering student Mark Welson Chua last March. He also implicated the former head of the National Capital Region-Regional Community Defense Group (NCR-RCDG), which oversees the ROTC program in Metro Manila.

His remarks seem to dovetail with findings by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) which has identified the cadet-officer suspects as Michael Von Rainard Manangbao, Eduardo Tabrilla, Paul Joseph Tan, and Patrick Christopher Cruz.

Tabrilla and Cruz are currently enrolled this semester, while Tan is debarred from the University. Manangbao, a son of police superintendent assigned in Cabanatuan, is at large.

In an interview with the Varsitarian, Tejares said Chua was killed apparently because he was readying another complaint of anomalies in the ROTC that involved the cadet officers themselves.

Tejares, whose promotion to colonel was recalled as a result of the Chua case, said circumstantial and physical evidence point to several cadet officers as those behind the killing. He did not discount the possibility that the students were acting on the orders of Capt. Rodolfo Batang, who succeeded him last January but who was relieved last July in the face of boycotts of the weekly ROTC training by cadets demanding the program’s abolition.

Tejares denied he was behind the gruesome murder of Chua, who had led the filing of a complaint of extortion and bribery last December against the University’s Department of Military Science and Tactics (DMST) with the Department of National Defense. The complaint, reported by the Varsitarian, was given due course and resulted in the relief of Tejares and the DMST staff last January.

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Two months later, Chua’s decomposing body was fished out of the Pasig River. His head was wrapped in packaging tape and his hands bound by shoestrings. His body was wrapped in a carpet.

“I cannot be linked to Chua’s death because I don’t have ill motives against him,” Tejares said in a sworn statement before the Army Inspector General’s Office. He added he was never linked to the irregularities exposed by Chua since he was given “command clearance” when he left UST.

He added that Genesis and Jeffrey Binagatan, the dismissed DMST staffers who had been arrested by the NBI for the killing, could not have done the crime because they did not have the means to do so. (A witness against the brothers have since recanted. See related story.)

Tejares said Chua’s killing was in connection with the victim’s attempt to make another exposé about the ROTC. He explained Chua, a member of the Student Intelligence Network, the campus spy system of the Armed Forces, had wanted to be promoted. To attain this, Batang reportedly gave him a “test mission”—to expose anomalies in UST.

Much to the consternation of Batang and the cadet officers, Chua gathered evidence about the extortion and bribery by the officers themselves, Tejares said.

Tejares said he dismissed the suspected cadet officers for corruption when Chua filed his complaint in December. But Batang reinstated them when he took over.

The Varsitarian tried to get the side of Batang, but to no avail.

Tejares said the other cadet officers talked to him after Chua’s death apparently to console him because of wide public perception he was behind the killing. But the officers not want to tell on the others. “They would be ostracized for a lifetime as members of the Golden Corps (of Cadets),” he said. He added the suspects have powerful connections.

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Tejares said the carpet used by the killers to wrap Chua’s body was the carpet used during the turnover ceremonies of the ROTC Corps of Cadets on March 11. He said the physical evidence points to the cadet officers.

Tejares stated he was apparently implicated by Col. Froilan Maglaya. He explained that Maglaya and Batang might be ganging up on him as “a matter of revenge” because he had asked the Army Reserve Command to investigate Maglaya for “unprofessionalism and ungentlemanly conduct” and anomalous transactions in ROTC uniforms.

In the interview, Tejares did not discount that Maglaya and Batang were behind the killing. “There might be somebody who controlled them (the cadet officers) remotely for a certain scenario,” he said. He also did not rule out that the cadet officers were trying to haze Chua or they were “under the influence of drugs.”

In his sworn statement, Tejares was more direct. He said that in a meeting with Batang and Maj. Emmanuel Sison of the NCR-RCDG after Chua’s death, he learned that Chua had received death threats in February. But instead of reporting the matter to the police or the NBI, Maglaya reportedly ordered Chua trained “on intelligence and security matters” at the RCDG and Chua’s father provided Army security.

“But when I asked him why they did not report the alleged threats to the NBI or police, Capt. Batang cannot answer,” Tejares said. “Likewise I asked him, ‘since when did the NCR-RCDG given a police function by giving security training to Mark Chua and security escort to Mark Chua’s father instead of the NBI or the police?’ Capt. Batang became nervous and cannot said a word.”

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Later, Tejares said Maglaya and Batang should be investigated. “What is more ridiculous is the fact that Maglaya and Batang, who handled Chua being their intelligence operative since 16 January 2001 when I was relieved . . . were not investigated which was supposedly the case since they were the ones handling Cdt. Chua before his death. They are the ones supposed to be investigated . . . They may have something to do with the death of Chua and not me and my staff who were relieved two months prior to Chua’s death.”

Tejares also urged that Chua’s body be exhumed. He said the police autopsy report said Chua’s body bore no external injuries, although photos of the body seemed to point otherwise. A new autopsy may yield more conclusive findings that can help the investigation, he added.

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