UST student gets death

- Bebot Sison Jr., Cecille Suerte Felipe -
A Manila court handed down the death penalty to a University of Sto. Tomas (UST) student for killing fellow student Mark Welson Chua, who had exposed corruption in the UST-Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) two years ago.

The victim’s parents, Welson and Amet Chua, their daughter Charmaine, relatives and friends cried as a guilty verdict against accused Arnulfo Aparri Jr. was read in an open court by a staffer of Manila Judge Romulo Lopez of Regional Trial Court Branch 18.

But for the mother, the conviction of only one of the killers is not enough to compensate for the death of her only son.

"While this is a good start, I won’t be at peace until other killers and the mastermind are arrested and prosecuted," she said.

The mother said she is hoping for immediate arrest of three others, namely Paul Joseph Tan, Eduardo Tabrilla and Michael Von Rainard Mangangbao, who are now subject of warrant of arrest issued by Lopez.

The father called on the public to help them locate the trio so justice can fully served.

He thanked the media, including Philippine Star publisher Max Soliven for helping his family in their struggle for justice.

Lopez ordered Aparri to indemnify the heirs of the victim P50,000. The judge noted that Chua’s parents did not seek civil damages.

The conviction will automatically be elevated to the Supreme Court for review. Aparri will be sent to the National Bilibid Prisons.

Lopez added that charges against Tan, Tabrilla and Mangangbao have been archived and will be brought back to the active calendar of the court upon their apprehension.
Campus Exposé
Chua’s body was fished out from the Pasig River on March 18, 2001. The body was wrapped in a carpet, his face covered with masking tape and his hands tied.

When investigators removed the tape from Chua’s face, his eyes popped out as the body was already in an early stage of decomposition.

In a 72-page decision, Lopez said the court found that the perpetrators to have enjoyed and delighted in making Chua suffer slowly and gradually, causing the latter unnecessary physical pain in the consummation of the criminal act.

"The perpetrators’ actuations denote sadism and marked degree of malice and perversity. Chua’s inhuman death was augmented by the use of other process of sufferings for the assailants’ satisfaction," he said.

State Prosecutor Peter Ong said the verdict was just for the crime committed. "Walang awa nilang pinatay yung walang kalaban-laban na biktima," he said.

Prosecution witness Franco Salvador Suelto, a campus journalist, told the court that he saw Chua’s body before it was wrapped in a carpet on March 18, 2001.

Suelto, who was then a third year BS psychology student, explained that UST-ROTC commandant Maj. Dey Tejares was replaced by Capt. Rodolfo Batang in February 2001 due to the exposé made by Chua and a certain Romulo Yumol in the Varsitarian, the school paper.

The exposé on alleged fixing at the ROTC prompted the Philippine National Police to conduct an investigation. The subject of the probe invoved Tejares’ staff namely Melchore Mallones, Genesis Binagatan and Jeoffrey Binagatan.

On March 15, 2001, Suelto said he attended a meeting with cadet officers at the UST Department of Military Service Training at the back of UST Grandstand. Present during the meeting were Tabrilla, Tan, Mangangbao, Eliseo Petarge, Emmanuel Corpuz, Lito Orbus and other cadets.

After the meeting, Suelto said he was set to work on an article for the school paper at the Varsitarian office, but decided to use the computer at the officers’ lounge.

Suelto said Mangangbao and Eliseo Pitarge went ahead of him and before he could enter the lounge, he saw Aparri, who was a fellow first class officer in the ROTC, dragging a body wearing a UST engineering uniform.

The head was wrapped with tape. The hands and feet were tied behind the back with shoelaces, Suelto told the court. He presumed it was Chua.
Dumping The Body
Despite knowledge of the foul play, Suelto went about working on his article at the officers’ lounge, during which Tan and Tabrilla brought in a brown carpet, which was spread on the floor. The victim’s body was placed lengthwise.

With the help of Mangangbao, they wrapped the body with the carpet. Mangangbao and Tabrilla carried the body and Aparri helped them load it to a white pickup truck. The three left the campus past midnight of March 16, 2001.

The following day, Suelto and a classmate returned to the lounge to work on another article. Later, Mangangbao, Tabrilla and Tan invited him for dinner. They did not talk about the killing at any point during the dinner at a restaurant in Parañaque City.

After the dinner, Suelto and the group went to Tan’s rented house. It was there that the killers revealed to him about their problem of disposing the body, which they have been keeping for two days.

Suelto said Tan ordered them to board the pickup, which Mangangbao drove toward the Pasig River. The body was inside the vehicle, he said.

Upon reaching Pasig River at Lawton, Mangangbao maneuvered the truck carrying the body near the riverside. Mangangbao, Tan and Tabrilla then dumped the body into the river.

Suelto noted that before they left the area, Tan warned all of them "that no one should know about the crime." During the trial, the defense maintained that Chua had died during ROTC hazing rites.

But the judge said there was no reason to believe that Aparri, together with Mangangbao, Tabrilla and Tan did not kill Chua.

"To ensure that Chua was dead after tying his hands and wrapping his face with tape, the body was even rolled up inside a carpet," Lopez said. He noted that the killing was perpetrated as a result of vindictiveness and to put an end to the exposé of the alleged corruption in the ROTC.

The defense lawyer maintained that Aparri, who had voluntarily surrendered, was innocent.

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