Nida Blanca murdered

- Christina Mendez, Perseus Echeminada, Jaime Laude () - November 8, 2001 - 12:00am
When multi-awarded actress Nida Blanca left her Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB) office in San Juan on Tuesday afternoon, death was waiting for her at the parking lot.

An assassin’s knife cut down Blanca — Dorothy Jones in real life — in a building on Annapolis street in San Juan, pulling down the curtain on a storied career that gave joy to her fans and the ordinary, movie- and TV-watching public that grew up with "John en Marsha."

"See you again tomorrow," MTRCB board secretary Chat Remigio quoted Blanca as saying cheerfully at around 5 p.m. Tuesday before she left the board’s offices on the 33rd floor of the Atlanta Centre in Greenhills.

It was the last known spoken line of the 65-year-old actress. She was found dead yesterday morning in the back seat of her green Nissan Sentra at the sixth-floor parking lot, a discreet trail of blood leading to it.

"This is a senseless waste of life," said Blanca’s husband, Rod Lauren, his voice breaking. "I don’t know what to do without her."

Lauren and Blanca’s long-time friends stressed that Blanca did not have any enemies, and it baffled them that she could die such a brutal death.

"It’s a very trying time to go through. There will be many, many more tears to come," Lauren said. He is awaiting the arrival tomorrow of their only child, Kaye, who is based in California.

Blanca’s screen "sweetheart" Nestor de Villa, with whom she co-starred in several popular films in the 1950s and 1960s, urged the government to speed up the investigation of the crime.

Jailed former President Joseph Estrada, one of Blanca’s long-time friends, also expressed grief at the murder.

"It seems to me (that) nobody is safe here anymore," the former action star-turned-politician said from the Veterans Memorial Medical Center (VMMC) where he is detained.

President Arroyo, for her part, ordered the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to quickly solve the slaying. Mrs. Arroyo appointed Blanca to the MTRCB.

Meanwhile, the PNP created "Task Force Marsha," headed by Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) chief, Director Nestorio Gualberto, to investigate the brutal killing.

The task force name referred to the comedy role the veteran actress portrayed in a long-running television sit-com, "John en Marsha," with leading comedian Dolphy. Actress Maricel Soriano and Dolphy’s son real-life son Rollie Quizon played the role of their two children in the show, along with other regulars, the late Dely Atay-atayan and comedianne Matutina.

"We are still evaluating all possible leads and motives. It is still an open-ended investigation," Gualberto said.

Blanca’s body was found inside her car by a building security guard who was inspecting the parking lot at around 8 a.m. Wednesday and discovered blood on the parking lot floor, a few meters from the car.

The blood led him to Blanca’s locked car where the actress was slumped in the backseat.

Forensic experts said Blanca sustained 13 stab wounds mostly on her head, neck and torso.

"While most of the wounds were superficial the fatal one was at her throat with a pointed instrument coming from the left, cutting through right and hitting the jugular vein," said police chief medico-legal officer, Superintendent Edgardo Guico, in his autopsy report.

Guico noted that at least two types of pointed instruments, probably short knives, were used in the attack because "the wounds were not identical."

Most of the wounds were "superficial and indiscriminate," indicating that the actress’ assailants were furiously mad, Guico said.

Coroners found no wounds that would indicate that Blanca was able to resist her attackers or had the chance to do so, Guico added.

"Her ribs were broken. She had a black eye on the right side, stab wounds to the neck, left armpit, ear and left jaw," Guico said.

NBI National Capital Region chief Edmund Arugay said Blanca told MTRCB employees that she would be attending a wake at the Santuario de San Antonio in Forbes Park, Makati City but she also failed to make that engagement.

"So our conclusion is that she could not have left the building on Tuesday, the last time she was seen alive," Arugay said.

Police coroners estimated that Blanca’s time of death could have been between 4 a.m. and 5 a.m. yesterday. The NBI also gave the same estimate as to the actress’ time of death.

"Rigor mortis (body stiffness) had not set in," Arugay added. "Our initial conclusion is that she died at around 4 a.m. to 5 a.m. yesterday. She was left to die a slow death."

"Her body was still very soft and her wounds were still fresh when we examined and pulled her out from her car," scene-of-the-crime-officers (SOCO) chief Ma. Christina Freyra told The STAR.

Freyra said the actress’ belongings were intact and there were no indications of forced entry on the car, leading probers to discount the possibility of robbery as a motive.

"We conducted scrapping on her fingernails for DNA examination," Freyra said in the hope the actress was able to scratch the skin of her attackers.

Blanca’s remains were brought from the PNP Crime Laboratory to the Loyola Memorial Chapel in Guadalupe, Makati City. Lauren said she will lie in state at the Christ the King Church at Greenmeadows Subdivision in Quezon City.

An ocular inspection of the crime scene showed that the area where the six parking spaces allotted to the MTRCB was dark and, aside from a wide-angle mirror, did not have a security guard station nor surveillance cameras.

Police found that the dried bloodstains were a few meters from the car, indicating that the actress was apparently stabbed there and later dragged into her car.

MTRCB employees said Blanca was among the MTRCB employees who had suffered some vandalism on their cars while parked in their parking area. - With reports Sheila Crisostomo, Cecille Suerte Felipe

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