Three suspects in 2019 Caramoran rob-slay freed for ‘lack of evidence’

Three suspects arrested six months after the robbery-killing of a 37-year-old female teacher in Caramoran have been freed by the Regional Trial Court for lack of evidence against them.

In granting the accused’s demurrer to evidence, RTC Branch 43 Acting Presiding Judge Genie G. Gapas-Agbada ordered the dismissal of the robbery with homicide case filed against Bernardo Berja Asanza, Santiago Torio Rafael and William Icamen Asanza for the capital offense committed against Melrose Trilles Baloloy in her home in Toytoy, Caramoran in the evening of Nov. 5, 2019.

“The Court finds the prosecution’s evidence insufficient to warrant the conviction of the accused beyond reasonable doubt,” the Court said in its 25-page decision issued on July 4, 2022.

It may be recalled that Baloloy, a teacher at Tucao-Maysuram Elementary School, was stabbed to death while her husband was reportedly away to attend the funeral of his father.

Accounts of the crime disclosed that Mrs. Baloloy and her 13-year-old son were about to have their dinner at 8 P.M. that night when they heard noises at the back portion of the house. When the boy opened the door to check, two men, with their faces hidden behind T-shirts, forcibly entered their residence and at gun point ordered them to kneel.

The suspects then took cash of about P850 from Mrs. Baloloy, who was allegedly asked why she didn’t have enough money when she was employed as a teacher. She reportedly told the suspects to just take the pigs the family was raising at their backyard along with the laptop and printer she was using.

After ransacking the bedroom, the two men brought the boy and tied his hands with straw and his legs with computer wire near the stairs of the basement area. They also brought his mother outside where she was stabbed to death.

An hour after the suspects fled the compound, the boy managed to untie himself, hurriedly went outside where he discovered her mother’s body and sought help from their neighbor.

Information filed before the Court indicated that in four separate interviews with the police, the 13-year-old son of the victim said he was not able to identify the men because they were wearing masks.

Then one John Mark Abainza surfaced as a possible witness, claiming that on the night in question he was driving his motorcycle when he saw two men at the other side of the road in front of the Baloloy house.

When the investigators talked with the aunt of the victim at her wake in her mother’s house, the aunt claimed that the description of one of the men matches that of Santiago Rafael, also known as Agoy, a tenant of the aunt’s estranged husband, Bernardo Asanza.

The police invited Rafael to the police station where he told them that he was at his house at the time of the incident.

But when Abainza’s father said that he knew the man as a cockfight aficionado, the witness took back his words.

The victim’s husband, Dindo, sought the assistance of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) regarding the violent death of his wife.

On Nov. 23, 2019, Dariao resident Bernabe Barrameda told NBI agent Eduardo Villa that in the morning of Nov. 5, he chanced upon Bernardo Asanza driving a motorcycle towards the población with another man as backrider.

On Jan. 21, 2020, 76 days after the killing, Dindo executed an affidavit in which he claimed that the motive for the robbery with homicide was that Bernardo was demanding that the Baloloy couple pay him P50,000 for the land on which they built their house, as it allegedly belonged to the Asanza couple.

He alleged that based on his conversations with witnesses, the three accused were involved in the crime.

The following day, his son told the NBI agent essentially the same narration of the events of Nov 5, 2019, but with two new claims: that he saw the face of the man who killed his mother and that he heard her cry out, “Tama na, Pay Agoy! Tama na, Pay Agoy!”

The boy also alleged that there was a light bulb in front of the area where he saw his mother being stabbed and that based on what he saw, he identified Rafael from the police photo as the assailant.

Abainza also executed an affidavit wherein he described one of the two men he saw beside the road as having a large tattoo on the right upper arm.

On the basis of the affidavits, the NBI recommended the prosecution of the three accused for the crime on May 28, 2020.

When arraigned, the accused all pleaded not guilty and filed a petition for bail, which was granted by then Judge Lelu P. Contreras as the prosecution’s evidence was not strong to prove the guilt of the accused.

In dismissing the charge, Judge Gapas-Agbada said that the prosecution failed to present evidence that Bernardo Asanza conspired with Santiago Rafael and William Asanza and induced them to kill the victim.

She noted that the victim’s son admitted that he did not know why the two Asanzas were included in his sworn affidavit.

The prosecution failed to explain why the boy only told the NBI on Jan. 22, 2020 that he saw the face of his mother’s assailant, something which he did not disclose to the police in separate interviews right after the crime.

The Court also pointed out that a police investigator testified that there was no lighted bulb outside the house where Baloloy was stabbed, contrary to the boy’s claim.

The boy’s statements suffered from inconsistencies, leaving the prosecution with no credible direct evidence of the commission of the crime, it stressed.

Even the circumstantial evidence, the Court said, failed to prove the prosecution’s case as Rafael did not have a tattoo on his arm.

The testimony of Barrameda would not suffice to convict the two Asanzas while Dindo Baloloy’s claim as to the motive behind the killing is bereft of probative value for being hearsay, the Court emphasized.

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