While his two co-accused got only six years imprisonment, the third man in the rape and killing of an 18-year old teener in Pandan town in 2014 has been sentenced by the Regional Trial Court to reclusion perpetua.
Michael Villegas Ibatuan, 27, was also ordered to pay the heirs of the victim P100,000 as civil indemnity and another P225,000 as moral, exemplary and temperate damages.
Arrested in Bambang, Bulakan, Bulacan in April 2019, he was among the three men charged for the rape-slay of Lyca Bermejo, 18, in San Andres, Pandan on June 5, 2014.
In a plea bargain agreement approved by the Regional Trial Court in March last year, te other two – brothers Jake and Saldy Eusebio – had agreed to plead guilty to a lesser offense, for which they were sentenced to imprisonment of six years and to pay P100,000 as civil liability to the victim’s mother.
Jake, then a 19-year old student at the Catanduanes State University (CSU) College of Agriculture, and Saldy, 26, were arrested by the police shortly after the case was filed, some four months after the incident.
Records of the case show that at 3 P.M. of June 5, 2014, Bermejo did not return home after being told by her mother to wash a big pot and frying pan at the nearby creek in barangay San Andres. Three days later, her decomposing body was found at a creek in the mountainside some 600 meters from the barangay proper, bearing injuries in the head, neck and other parts of her body.
A postmortem examination showed she was wearing only her underwear and uplifted shirt, with her private parts swollen, a vine wrapped around her neck, and her body bearing bruises and contusions.
The crime could have gone unsolved were it not for a 17-year old boy who told his father he saw who killed Lyca and that they threatened to kill him and his family.
The boy said Saldy, who had a bolo, was the one who dragged him from the mountainside where he was picking papaya and told him to rape the then already dead victim. He ran away when the trio’s attention was diverted. The two others had short firearms at the time he saw them beside the body of the victim.
Thirty-one residents also said they saw Saldy in the barangay that day while the prosecution averred it was not impossible for Jake to travel from Sta. Cruz to San Andres that day.
When arraigned, Ibatuan pleaded not guilty and insisted on pursuing the case.
He testified that he worked at Marby Food Ventures in Bulacan from January to July 1, 2014, on which his employment was terminated.
A co-worker also testified that he reported for work on June 5, 2014 together with Michael and also on the following day.
The Court, however, said that his documentary evidence failed to bolster his defense.
The Daily Attendance Record was incomplete, RTC Branch 43 Presiding Judge Lelu P. Contreras said, as the upper portion of the page was omitted which is the usual place where the date is indicated.
It was also noted that the certificates of employment issued by the manpower services did not show the date when there were issued.
On the other hand, the overtime request he submitted indicated he worked on June 5, 2014 from 10:10 A.M. to 9:50 P.M. However, his counter-affidavit stated that on the same date he was taking his rest in their house because he had his midnight shift the previous night of June 4.
The Court also cited the lone witness consistently pointed to Ibatuan as one of the two persons standing near the dead body of the victim.
The Court did not see any ill motive on the part of the witness to point to Michael as one of the perpetrators, it said, and neither did Michael present any proof that the witness had ill motive against him.
Citing the circumstances of his presence at the crime scene together with Saldy and Jake, as well as the fact that he remained at large for five (5) years when he could have surrendered if he was innocent, Judge Contreras said these sufficiently proved beyond reasonable doubt Michael’s participation in the commission of the crime.
“Flight is evidence of guilt,” the Court stressed.