Nida slay suspect nabbed, tags husband as brains

- Christina Mendez, Jaime Laude () - November 20, 2001 - 12:00am
Chased by the furies of his conscience, a former security guard surrendered to the police Sunday night to admit his role in last week’s murder of multi-awarded actress Nida Blanca, and tagged her Australian-born husband as the mastermind.

"I was so devastated (by) that incident, I never had sound sleep. My conscience was immeasurably bothered," the confessed killer, Philip Medel, 54, stated in his handwritten confession.

Presidential Spokesman Rigoberto Tiglao said President Arroyo, who is on an official visit in the US, was elated at the early solution of the case.

"He (Medel) admitted complicity in the murder of actress Nida Blanca in the early morning of Nov. 7," said Director Nestorio Gualberto, chief of the Philippine National Police (PNP) criminal investigation and detection group.

Medel alleged that Blanca’s husband of 22 years, Rod Lauren Strunk whom he referred to as "Bakling," hired him to act as "lookout" in the killing of the actress to claim inheritance.

A source told The STAR that Strunk has shut himself inside his room, continuously reading the Bible.

It was reported earlier that the couple’s relationship had become stormy, with the late actress excluding him from her will.

In his affidavit owning up to the crime, Medel said Strunk was present when he butchered Blanca inside her car while parked at the sixth floor parking lot of the Atlanta Centre in Greenhills, San Juan.

"Bakit n’yo ako ginaganito. Ikaw lalaki ka, binubuhay kita...Pinalalamon kita. (Why are you doing this to me? You, I’ve been supporting you. I’ve been feeding you)," the suspect quoted an angry Blanca as berating her attackers.

Police recovered the fatal weapon, a small kitchen knife, from the suspect’s rented apartment in Kamias, Quezon City.

Agents of Task Force Marsha, specifically created to speed up solution of the murder, have placed Strunk under a 24-hour surveillance and he may be arrested once a warrant is issued by the court.

Justice Secretary Hernando Perez said, however, that the arrest warrant will be issued after a preliminary investigation has been conducted.

The movie career of Blanca, born Dorothy Jones to an American soldier and a Filipina mother, spanned 51 years and more than 100 films, including the longest-running television sitcom "John en Marsha" in which she played the caring wife to a poor but loving husband portrayed by Dolphy.
October plot
In his 10-page handwritten statement, a remorseful Medel hinted that the murder plot against Blanca was hatched as early as the first week of October.

He said a personal friend he identified as Mike Martinez casually mentioned to him during a phone conversation about a project of a certain Tantoco, but did not elaborate.

Medel said that he again talked to Martinez about the "Tantoco project" on Nov. 20.

They finally agreed to meet at the house of a certain Sally Tan on Vito Cruz in Malate, Manila "three or four days before the end of October."

In that meeting, Martinez allegedly promised him P50,000 for his role as "lookout" while they try to settle the score with the wife of a Chinese businessman whom they had sued for estafa.

The meeting ended with Martinez instructing him to keep his cellphone open on Nov. 5.

However, it was in the morning of Nov. 6 when Martinez called up, telling Medel to wait for him at the corner of Santolan Road and E. de los Santos Avenue (EDSA) near Camp Crame at about 5 p.m.

After a few minutes of waiting, Medel said a car, colored beige, pulled over near him, and a Caucasian man rolled down the window and asked; "Are you Jun Medel?"

The man, who turned out to be Strunk, asked him to get in and the foreigner ordered his driver to proceed to a famous restaurant along EDSA allegedly to pick up Martinez.

Not finding Martinez at the eatery, the group proceeded to Virra Mall in Greenhills to look for a woman Strunk called "Mahadera."

After a futile search of the Virra Mall and the nearby Robinson’s Galleria for "Mahadera," Medel said they returned to the restaurant in another vain attempt to meet with Martinez.

While waiting for Martinez, Medel said Strunk, whom he identified as "Rad," ordered some food while he had a beer.

While eating, Strunk allegedly told Medel that he would merely act as an "observer" as they accost their quarry.

At about 10 p.m., the group left the restaurant and went back to the Virra Mall in another futile search for "Mahadera," after which they went to the Atlanta Centre and parked on the sixth floor parking lot of the building.

"It’s okay here," Medel quoted Strunk as saying, while the Australian proceeded to inspect a Nissan Sentra car left unattended at another side of the parking lot.

Getting back to his car, Strunk told Medel he would drive down for awhile and instructed him to wait inside the Nissan Sentra which he had opened. The car belonged to Blanca, and Strunk appeared to be keeping another key to it.

While waiting, Medel said he fell asleep and was roused by the glare of the headlights of another vehicle which turned out to be Strunk’s. He placed the time at about 1 a.m.

"Then I noticed a woman dressed in a striped, long-sleeved blouse and dark pants hurriedly alight from the other vehicle, followed by Strunk and another woman whom I didn’t know, with a tomboy-looking woman," Medel recalled, adding that Strunk’s driver was no longer with the group.

As Blanca was about to get into the driver’s seat of her car, Strunk allegedly shoved her, shouting; "You stay at the back."

One of Strunk’s accomplices opened the rear door and pushed the actress to the backseat still occupied by Medel.

Blanca was surprised to see him inside her car.

Meanwhile, Strunk and another accomplice menacingly asked the victim for some documents.

"Where are the documents? Where are the documents?" Strunk shouted.

As Blanca struggled to get out of the car, the group ganged up on her with fist blows and kicks. Strunk also ordered Medel to restrain the actress, and he followed by holding her in the neck.

Medel said he also boxed and stabbed Blanca until she passed out.

Medel said they left Atlanta Centre at about 2 a.m., and Strunk dropped him off near Virra Mall, saying his fee would be delivered by Martinez,

The suspect said he took a taxi going to the EDSA Shrine, where he transferred to a bus heading home to Kamias.

The suspect said he hid the knife under the kitchen sink.

He said he was shocked to learn later on that "the woman we confronted....was Nida Blanca."

"I hope mankind will understand the sin I have blindly committed," he said, adding that he decided to make the confession to give justice to the victim.

Camp Crame sources said civilian military agents were crucial in solving the murder.

They said Medel unwittingly confided to a civilian agent that he was having nightmares because of his crime. The agent in turn relayed the information to the police who immediately launched a 24-hour surveillance on the suspects.

The source said Medel yielded to a police official who met with him at the Farmers’ Plaza in Cubao, Quezon City.

Meanwhile, Gualberto said Blanca’s relatives were still trying to locate her last will and testament wherein she reportedly left all her assets to her only daughter from a previous marriage, Katherine Torres.

"It seems that it is missing. That is why we have started to ask the lawyer about it," Gualberto said.

Among her property were a P35-million home in posh White Plains subdivision in Quezon City, a five-hectare lot in Rodriguez town in Rizal, a vacation house in Baguio City and another lot in Quezon City.

Meanwhile, Immigration Commissioner Andrea Domingo has placed a hold departure order on Strunk and his alleged accomplices.

"We want to prevent Rod Lauren Strunk and Candelaria Tantoco from leaving the country as they are the primary suspects in the celebrated murder of the veteran actress," Domingo said. — With reports from Jose Rodel Clapano, Rey Arquiza, Mike Frialde, Perseus Echeminada

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