PNP: No evidence vs Medel

- Jaime Laude () - December 5, 2001 - 12:00am
No evidence points to the man who admitted and later disowned the Nov. 7 killing of veteran actress Nida Blanca, the Philippine National Police (PNP) said yesterday.

As far as authorities are concerned, Philip Medel Jr., who has been diagnosed to be suffering from an illness characterized by extreme talkativeness, can walk a free man.

Meanwhile, actress Gina Pareño, who started out in showbiz in 1966, executed a two-page affidavit at the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) yesterday and talked for 20 minutes with agents investigating the Blanca murder case.

Accompanied by former Commission on Elections chairwoman Harriet Demetriou, Pareño reportedly gave vital information that would veer away investigation from the police angle that Rod Lauren Strunk, Blanca’s American husband, masterminded her killing.

NBI sources said Pareño decided to give the information to the bureau and not the PNP upon advice of Demetriou, the lawyer of Blanca’s daughter, Katherine Jones Torres.

Chief Superintendent Jose Marlowe Pedregoza, chief of the PNP Crime Laboratory, said blood on a shirt recovered from the crime scene did not match that of Medel after samples underwent DNA testing.

DNA tests also showed that residues on the alleged murder weapon — a knife — did not match tissue samples from Medel and Blanca, he added.

Medel also passed a lie detector test in which an NBI agent asked if he knew anything about Blanca’s murder, but doctors did not find any "evidence of torture" on his body after a thorough medical examination.

Maximo Reyes, chief of the NBI’s medico-legal division, said Medel’s body did not bear any sign of physical torture when doctors examined him nine days after his alleged torture by police investigators.

"After an hour of complete medical examination, we have found no physical evidence to show that he was drowned or was electrocuted," he said.

"Suffice it to show, the external surfaces of the body did not prove, did not support his theory that he was tortured. There were no physical findings in the body to show that he was really tortured," Reyes added.

But Dr. Ernestor Lucena, also of the NBI’s medico-legal division, said Medel "told the truth" when asked a battery of questions on his alleged torture and the Blanca murder case.

"Regarding the polygraph, he is telling the truth ... especially the relevant questions asked of him," he said. "We asked him if he has knowledge of the plan to kill Nida Blanca and he said: ‘No!’"

State Prosecutor Emmanuel Velasco told reporters yesterday some investigators of Task Force Marsha had "deliberately withheld" from prosecutors vital information on what they said was Medel’s involvement in the murder case.

"Had they been candid (Task Force Marsha) on all their findings on Medel with us prosecutors, we could have deferred the preliminary investigation of the case," he said.

Velasco said the justice department had asked task force officials as early as Nov. 17 to subject Medel to neuro-psycho analysis and a lie detector test, but they obviously did not conduct any exams.

"Had the (Criminal Investigation and Detection Group) complied at the very start, there could have been no outbursts from Medel," he said.

Rommel Papa, chief of the NBI’s psychiatric division, said Medel is suffering from a non-debilitating mental illness —known to psychiatrists as hypomanic episode — which is characterized by hyperactivity like talkativeness.

"Before arriving at an impression, we conducted testing and we found out that he was suffering from a hypomanic episode, a non-debilitating mental illness characterized by over talkativeness, hyperactivity and flight of ideas," he said.

"But the symptoms, severity and duration are not psychotic in proportion. He is not... normal but he is not psychotic. In terms of severity, his symptoms are from mild to moderate. He was consistent with his verbalizations."

Reyes said the contusions on Medel’s wrists and ankles were caused by handcuffs, which could have been loose when police placed them on him.

"At the onset, he was a confessed killer," he said. "It is but natural that you be handcuffed if you are a killer. You must be secured. We have seen abrasions on the wrists that resulted from his being handcuffed too loosely. The mark on the ankles were also contused abrasions same as those on his wrists. He had to be secured. His ankles were cuffed during times that he ate."

"Even after five days, the signs of the alleged torture should have shown. Healing of surface injuries is from the periphery going inward. I have examined him thoroughly just to prove his allegation cannot be supported by medical evidence," Reyes said.

Papa said Medel was already suffering from hypomanic episode before police investigators allegedly tortured him to admit to Blanca’s murder.

"According to the clinical theory, the hypomanic episode was already present even before whatever happened," he said. "There are several causes but because of medical ethics, we cannot say what really caused the episode."

Lawyer Ric Diaz, NBI spokesman, told reporters Medel is no longer qualified for the government’s witness protection program because he had already recanted his confession and prosecutors had dismissed the case against him.

"Since the testimony was repudiated by himself, and the case was dismissed by the prosecutor’s office for further investigation, I don’t think there is basis for his inclusion in the witness protection program as of this time," Diaz said.

Medel had asked for NBI protection but the matter has yet to be approved by Director Reynaldo Wycoco, he added.

Diaz refused to comment on Medel’s credibility as a witness in the Blanca murder case.

In another development, Quezon City Judge Percival Lopez said yesterday Medel’s testimony in the habeas corpus hearing for "missing link" Michael Martinez, was full of inconsistencies.

"I will render my decision on Monday," he said. "Certain inconsistencies by a witness may sometimes bolster the testimony but not all the time."

Lopez said the inconsistencies of Medel may affect the petition of Martinez’s wife and mother to order the PNP to present Martinez before the court.

Maria Estrelita and Teresita Martinez said the missing man was taken at gunpoint by eight men along a street in Sun Valley Subdivision in Parañaque City two weeks ago. — With reports from Mike Frialde, Matthew Estabillo

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