Rene Robles was puzzled. It was already past seven in the evening yet there was no light at their house. He approached the gate and called out his wife’s name. There was no answer.
A few steps closer, he saw that the steel gate they usually kept locked was open. Fear washed over him and, quickly, he jumped over the wall fence and rushed towards the front door, entered the house, and reeled at what he saw.
On the floor was his wife, lying face-down, dead, and drowning in her blood. And a few feet away, inside the bedroom, was his daughter—lifeless and also covered in blood.
His head spinned. And slowly, Rene felt his world crumble.
A husband’s nightmare
It’s been fifteen years since that fateful day of September 12, 1996 when Rene saw his 43-year-old wife Laura and five-year-old daughter Mary Lauren dead inside their home in Tierra Verde Executive Village, Santolan, Pasig City.
“Siyempre masakit,” Rene tells ABS-CBN SOCO. “Kahit naman ngayon, ‘pag naalala ko, malungkot pa rin. Ang pananaw ko, may dahilan kung bakit sila kinuha.”
He remembers calling their house after lunch and not getting any answer. He also recalls going home around dinner time and panic washing over him when he saw their steel gate partially open. He remembers seeing his wife and daughter dead. But the flurry of events after became a blur.
The Robles’ residence. Panic washed over Rene Robles when he saw their steel gate partially open. And when he went inside, he saw his wife and daughter drowning in their own blood.
“Hindi ko madescribe kasi disoriented na ‘ko,” he says pertaining to the moment the Pasig Police and the Eastern Police District Scene of Crime Operation responded to the crime scene.
Based on post-mortem examination, Rene’s wife Laura sustained a total of 43 wounds. The most fatal were the stab wounds on her back that penetrated her heart, lungs, and liver. Meanwhile, Rene’s daughter Mary Lauren sustained four stab wounds.
The victims. Rene’s wife Laura sustained 43 wounds while his daughter Mary Lauran sustained four stab wounds.
Upon further search of the Robles’ residence, the authorities found out that their camera and cash amounting to P8,000 were missing leading them to believe that robbery was the motive behind the killings.
The authorities also went around the neighbourhood to see if anyone noticed an unusual person lurking near the Robles’ residence the night the murders happened. “According to the neighbours, may [lalaking] tumalon sa bakod,” Officer-on-case SPO2 Rogelio Villanueva tells ABS-CBN SOCO. “Hindi na kami tumigil nun sa follow-up [operations]. Bumalik kami sa lugar, nakasibiliyan kami, nagtatanung-tanong.”
Eventually, one of the neighbours, Antonio Macadangdang, identified the man as one Donato Cruz y Malejana. According to Antonio, that afternoon, he saw Donato jump over the Robles’ gate and after a few hours, walked out carrying a clutch bag.
Upon running a background check, the authorities found out that Donato used to be a NAWASA pipe fitter in the village. But on April 1996, he was fired due to allegations of estafa. He was also said to have been a drug user.
From there, the authorities got several leads to Donato’s location in Barangka, Marikina. “Nag-stakeout kami mula umaga hanggang gabi,” SPO2 Villanueva says. The stakeout seemed futile at first. The suspect was nowhere to be found. But on September 14, 1996, their efforts finally paid off.
Around five o’ clock in the afternoon, Donato came home. SPO3 Villanueva and his men immedialtey apprehended the suspect and brought him to the police headquarters.
Eventually, Donato confessed to the murders.
According to Donato, he was high on marijuana the day the murders happened. He went to Tierra Verde to meet up with a friend. When he reached the gates of the subdivision, it began to rain. “Pakiramdam niya [raw], napakasakit sa ulo ng mga patak [ng ulan],” SPO2 Villanueva says. “May nakita siyang open na gate, it so happened na ‘yung bahay nila Mr. Robles ‘yun at pumasok siya dun.”
At that time, Laura was buying softdrinks from the neighboring store. And when she went back home, she was startled to see Donato and panicked. “Sabi ni Donato, nung nang-react [si Laura], ang tingin niya parang itim na pusa, “SPO2 Villanueva says. “Sinakal niya, hinaltak niya papasok sa bahay, atsaka pinagsasak.”
And when Donato heard five-year-old Mary Lauren crying, he turned his attention to her, and stabbed the poor child.
Confessions of a killer. Donato Malehana confessed that he was high on drugs the night he killed Laura and Mary Lauren Robles.
Donato also confessed to stealing from the Robles’ some cash, a camera, and some clothes which he changed into. He told the authorities where he stashed his bloodied clothes and the knife he used to kill Laura and Mary Lauren. They weren’t able to recover the murder weapon but were able to retrieve Donato’s clothes and the camera.
Donato was charged with two counts of murder and the Pasig Regional Trial Court. And on December 5, 1996, he was found guilty beyond reasonable doubt. Currently, Donato is detained at the National Bilibid Prisons in Muntinlupa.
Forgiveness and redemption.
Rene Robles, meanwhile, has learned how to forgive his wife and daughter’s murderer. “Siguro, sa tagal na niya sa bilangguan, napagsisihan na niya ‘yung ginawa niyang kasalanan,” he says. “Sabi nga, ang Diyos nagpapatawad at wala rin akong magagawa dahil maluwag ko nang tinanggap sa dibdib ko dahil alam ko na may dhailan kung bakit kinuha sa’kin ang mag-ina ko.”
And fifteen years after the people he loved was taken from him, Rene has found renewed happiness in the arms of his new family. (END)
Fifteen years after they were killed, Rene Robles has finally learned how to forgive his wife and daughter’s murderer.