Letters to the Editor

Statement from the family of Karyn Velez

The Philippine Star

After over 20 months of legal battling, some justice is finally served in the case of Ms. Karyn Velez, who died in a vehicular collision last August 12, 2013.

Undisputed is that a delivery van owned by Unipack Repacking Services, a repacking and distribution entity based in Taguig City, rammed the rear of Karyn’s Honda Civic at very high speed on C5 road northbound, right at the base of the Ortigas flyover, just before 12 midnight on August 11, 2013. The impact severed Karyn’s C1 and C2 vertebrae, causing imminent death. This explains why immediate, aggressive efforts to revive her were unsuccessful.

What was disputed is how the collision happened. The van’s driver, Argie Biagtan who hails from Pangasinan, and his two companions, both also employees of Unipack, initially accused Karyn of driving southbound on C5, suddenly crossing over the center island, spinning precisely 180°, then landing exactly in front of the Unipack van, leaving him no time to avoid or slow down.

This is the story written by the first reporters on the scene. Without bothering to seek other witnesses, they filed their report/s accordingly, which were subsequently picked up by numerous news organizations, social media, sports blogs and badminton fora around the world. There was no mention that their words were quoted exclusively from the driver and corroborated only by his cohorts from Unipack.

Even in death, Karyn had to endure the stigmata of these resultant conjectures:

(1) She was driving wildly and irresponsibly.

(2) She was driving under the influence of illegal substances.

(3) She was not wearing a seatbelt.

(4) She was using an unfit vehicle at night on a wet road.

Biagtan stuck to his story for over a year and a half until eventually changing his plea to GUILTY of the criminal charge: ‘reckless imprudence resulting in homicide’ thereby conceding that our version is the correct one.

Our family has always maintained that Karyn was northbound that evening, going carefully at reduced speed due to the slippery road. There was no evidence along the center island nor on the Civic’s undercarriage that it crossed lanes. A volunteer firefighter and his girlfriend who were at the top of the Ortigas flyover precisely at the time of the accident and were the first ones to help her, came forward during Karyn’s wake and narrated to the family the following:

(1) They did not see any vehicle cross from the other lane.

(2) Karyn had her seatbelt strapped on.

(3) They did not smell any liquor in the vehicle.

Ultimately, the testimony of these two witnesses sealed Biagtan’s fate and served justice for Karyn.

As for the shape of the vehicle, maintenance records will prove that the Civic was in excellent working condition. Knowing our daughter drives it when in Manila, we always made sure it was running impeccably.

Finally, as a USA badminton athlete and Olympics hopeful, Karyn was being monitored by USADA, the United States Anti-Doping Administration — the same organization that tested Manny Pacquiao 12 times before his fight against Floyd Mayweather. She was subject to random testing 24/7 anywhere in the world.

There is no way Karyn would she risk her entire career and passion by taking an illegal substance.

Our family chose to wait for the court’s decision instead of responding immediately to the articles. We wanted to be armed with facts, research, logic and jurisprudence. We obtained the first three quickly, but it took almost two years to complete the fourth. With the judicial proceedings settled and Mr. Biagtan admitting to criminal negligence while driving the Unipack van, we respectfully request that you print our now-undisputed version of events.

Our prayer is that doing so will help restore completely the reputation of Ms. Karyn Velez as a class act on and off the court, and as a highly sought role model for aspiring athletes and young women in the Philippines, the USA, and the many other countries she visited. She forged lasting multinational friendships and represented her sport, country, family and exemplary character most impressively. Thank you for your indulgence and fairness in reporting. — JOFER VELEZ, for the family of Ms. Karyn Velez

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