SOCO: "Live show"
The barangay hall in Alas-Asin, Mariveles, Bataan was barely open yet when a man came rushing in on the morning of April 3, 2006. Out of breath, he delivered shocking news to the barangay tanod – 2 people were chopped to death in their neighborhood.
Almost instantly, the barangay tanod, Mamerto Marzan, and his team rushed to the place the man was talking about.
And when they arrived at crime scene, Marzan and his team were taken aback by what they saw. “Noong pagpasok namin, mga duguan na po [iyong mga biktima],” Marzan tells ABS-CBN Scene of the Crime Operatives. “‘Yong lalaki po sa isang kuwarto, nakaupo siya, hubo’t hubad na po. Patay na.”
But aside from the lifeless man, another victim was found in the other room - a woman. Also butchered and bathing in her own blood.
“’Yong babae, sugatan din po, dami hong tama. Nakahubad din po,” Marzan recalls. But miraculously, the woman was still breathing and was rushed to the Mariveles Health Services Cooperative.
After the female victim was rushed to the hospital, the authorities were left inside the house to find evidence among the carnage which, they were hoping, would shed light on the gruesome crime that took place inside the house.
The crime scene. “’Yong lalaki po, sa isang kwarto, nakaupo siya, hubo’t hubad na po. Patay na,” Marzan says.
A few minutes later, a team with then chief investigator of Mariveles police, Retired Senior Police Officer 4 Ronaldo Lorenzo arrived at the scene.
Together with the Balanga, Bataan Scene of the Crime Operation team, they began to gather evidence.
“[‘Yong] loob ng bahay, total disarray,” Lorenzo recalls. “Parang nagkaroon ng struggle sa loob. Maraming blood splatter sa mga dingding at sahig.”
But aside from the victims’ blood, they couldn’t find any other evidence that would lead them to the perpetrators.
They could only assume, based on the wounds sustained by the victims, that the murder weapon was a long and sharp instrument. “Yung hack wound kasi, incise siya, pahiwa ba,” Lorenzo explains. “Kaya maaaring itak o anumang bagay na malaki iyong gamit.”
Searching for clues. The only evidence that the authorities found were the victims’ blood splattered on the walls.
But the bigger question was—who were the victims?
In order to find out, the authorities traced the owner of the house where the crime took place.
After asking around the neighbourhood, they found out that the house belonged to a Brigilmer and Elsie Virgo.
And upon talking to the owners, they finally discovered who the victims were – 25-year-old Ryan Victoriano and 21-year-old Grace. Both of whom were Brigilmer and Elsie’s guests at their baby’s baptismal celebration.
Cry for justice
Upon learning about his son’s demise, Lope Victoriano was devastated. More so because of the means by which his son was killed.
Based on Ryan’s death certificate, his body was covered by hack wounds. It also indicated that he suffered brain haemorrhage which eventually led to his death.
“Hindi ko matanggap ang nangyari,” Lope says. “Gusto kong mabigyan ng hustisya ang sinapit ng anak ko.”
But with only minimal evidence at hand, the authorities only chance of tracing the perpetrators and Lope’s hope of finding justice for his son lies with the other victim, Grace, who was, with every breath, fighting for her life.
Parents in anguish. Ryan’s parents pleading for justice for the gruesome murder of their son.
A breath of information
After suffering 25 hack wounds on her body and face, Grace was almost at her deathbed. She could barely speak but, using what’s left of her energy, she uttered a name to the authorities.
“Nagbigay ng initial statement si Mary Grace,” Lorenzo says.” “Dying declaration na kung sakaling mamatay [siya], ang sinasabi niyang tumaga sa kaniya ay si Benjie Constantino.”
And with that information, the authorities apprehended Benjie in his home on Mountain View, Barangay Alas-Asin, Mariveles, Bataan.
After doing a background check, the authorities found out that Benjie was Grace’s high school classmate and former lover which led them to believe that revenge and jealousy could be the motive.
“Nagkaroon umano ng unawaan sina Benjie [Constantino] at Grace,” says Lorenzo. “Ngayon, ang kasama naman [ni Grace] ay iyong Ryan.”
But even though Benjie was already behind bars, the authorities were yet to trace the other perpetrators.
Until a month after, Grace finally recovered and regained enough strength to recount the nightmare she endured on the night of April 3, 2006.
Like a scene from a nightmare
After recovering, Grace immediately spoke with the Mariveles police and gave an account of the night the crime happened.
According to Grace, they were invited to the baptism of Brigilmer and Elsie’s baby in Barangay Alas-Asin. Seh said that she and Ryan had a tad too many drinks.
Around 5 p.m., all the other guests have left. But because they were too drunk, Grace and Ryan stayed around.
At that point, Brigilmer and Elsie offered Grace and Ryan their place where they can crash. “Hinatid kami ng mag-asawa,” Grace tells ABS-CBN SOCO. “Tulog [si Ryan] sa sobrang lasing. Hanggang sa umalis iyong mag-asawa.”
Grace fell asleep as well.
But in the middle of the night, they were suddenly awakened when 4 men barged into the house. Grace identified the men as Benjie, Elmer Sacatani, Brandy Virgo, and the owner of the house himself, Brigilmer.
“Nagulat ako at natakot kasi bigla na lang kami hinatak papasok ng kuwarto,” Grace recalls. “Naiwan sa labas ng pinto si Brigilmer.”
Once inside the room, the men wanted the two to get naked and have sex while they watch.
“Noong ayaw namin, sila na ang naghubad sa ’min,” Grace says.
And when she and Ryan refused to have sex, one of the suspects brandished a samurai.
“Pinagtataga na kami,” Grace remembers. “Una si Ryan. Sinasangga niya. Si Benjie ang tumataga sa kanya. Tapos sa akin si Elmer. Kitang-kita ko ang mga mukha nila kasi maliwanag ang buwan noon.”
Grace recalled how Ryan’s neck was severely slashed. She, on the other hand, pretended to be dead and waited until the suspects left.
Re-enactment. The suspects axing one of the victims.
Grace could feel that she was losing a lot of blood. “Ang nasa isip ko, paano ako mabubuhay. Talagang gusto kong mabuhay,” Grace says with conviction. “Ang ginawa ko, pumunta ako sa kabilang kwarto, kumuha ako ng kumot doon, iyon ang binalot ko sa sarili ko.”
Grace waited. And waited.
Until morning came and Brigilmer and Elsie arrived at the house. Upon seeing Brigilmer, Grace was filled with rage.
“Tinanong pa ako ni Brigilmer kung sino ang gumawa nito sa akin,” Grace says. “Hindi ako kumikibo. Galit ako sa kanya kasi nandoon siya. Akala niya siguro patay na ako.”
With that, Grace resolved that she would live if only see the men who killed Ryan and left her for dead behind bars.
The house where the crime took place. Brigilmer and Elsie home in Brgy. Alas-Asin, Mariveles, Bataan.
After Grace’s revelation, all the 4 suspects were charged with separate counts of murder and frustrated murder at the Balanga, Bataan Provincial Prosecutor’s Office.
Three years later, on November 3, 2008, a warrant of arrest for Brigilmer was finally issued and the suspect was arrested.
Currently, Brigilmer and Benjie are detained at the Bataan Provincial Jail. But since Brandy was a minor when the crime occurred, the charges against him were dropped.
Elmer, meanwhile, remains at large.
ABS-CBN SOCO interviewed Brigilmer and Benjie - both of whom denied the allegations.
“Sana, wag [siya] basta-basta magturo ng suspek dahil hindi naman kami iyon,” Brigilmer insists. “Nasira na rin ang buhay naming dahil sa kaso.”
Suspects. (L) Brigilmer Virgo; (R) Benjie Constantino.
But despite their denial, Grace stands firm on her testimony. She vows never to rest until justice is served for the crime that forever left a scar not only on her body but in her life.
The continuing search for Justice. Grace vows to never rest until all the perpetrators are behind bars.