Family still hopes for justice 17 years after Mark Welson Chua’s death

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IT’S BEEN 17 years, but the family of Mark Welson Chua never lost hope “full” justice would eventually be attained for the killing of the former UST Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) cadet, as two of four suspects remain at large to this day.

“Partial justice lang ‘yung binigay, hindi full justice. Hindi ko alam kailan ko matatanggap ‘yong full justice, kung mayroon mang justice ang Pilipinas,” Mark’s mother Amelita Chua told the Varsitarian.

Chua, then a 19-year-old mechanical engineering student, disclosed to the Varsitarian in January 2001 the corruption in the University’s ROTC program together with his fellow cadet Romulo Yumul.

Chua’s exposé was published in the Varsitarian’s Feb. 21, 2001 issue. The story titled “Struggle Against the System” cited the formal complaint of Yumul and Chua that caused the relief of Maj. Demy Tejares from duty as commandant of the ROTC unit, and other Department of Military Science and Tactics (DMST) officials.

Chua went missing the following month. His father Welson received a call claiming Mark had been kidnapped. The caller asked for a P3-million ransom.

Two days later, on March 18, 2001, Mark’s decomposing body, rolled in a carpet, was fished out of Pasig River; his hands and legs hogtied and his face wrapped with silver duct tape.

Hindi naman ako nawawalan ng pag-asa kahit hindi na ganun kainit ‘yung kaso. Kasi naniniwala ako sa karma e. Kung hindi man sa life na ‘to, ‘yung responsible sa pagpatay kay Mark e babayaran din nila,” Amelita said.

In 2004, Arnulfo Aparri, one of the accused in the case, was sentenced to death by lethal injection. He was also ordered to pay the family P50,000 in indemnity. When the death penalty was abolished in 2006, Aparri’s sentence was changed to life imprisonment without parole.

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Eduardo Tabrilla, another accused, pleaded guilty to homicide in 2006. Two others, Paul Tan and Michael Rainard Manangbao, remain at large.

Amelita said there had been no significant developments in the case. Pursuing Tan and Manangbao required a huge amount of money that the family did not have, she said.

Mark’s father, Welson, died in February 2006.

“As of now, ‘di ko na alam kung sino lalapitan ko kasi lahat siguro noong time na [buhay] ‘yong daddy ni Mark, nilapitan na niya lahat. If kayo nasa kalagayan ko, if you’ve been in my shoes, ano, sino na?” she said.

Mark’s death brought clamor for the abolition of mandatory ROTC, resulting in the passage of the National Service Training Program law that offers other service options that do not involve military training.

In 2016, the Department of National Defense (DND) called for the reimposition of the mandatory ROTC program. President Rodrigo Duterte approved the DND’s proposal to restore mandatory ROTC for Grades 11 and 12 in public and private schools in February last year.

A bill is set to be deliberated in Congress to amend Republic Act 7077 or the Citizen Armed Forces of the Philippines Reservist Act before mandatory ROTC can be enforced in Grades 11 and 12.

The University posthumously awarded Mark the San Lorenzo Ruiz Medal in June 2001 for “showing exceptional and exemplary courage in standing up for the truth and Thomasian ideals,” which his father before he died.

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