Beautiful, kind-hearted, and a good daughter. That’s how her family described 20-year-old Julie Ann Rodelas, also known as Jaja.
When she was a kid, Rodelas wanted to become an actress.
“Sumali pa ‘yun sa mga dance contest,” said her mother, Luz. “Mahilig siyang magkanta-kanta.”
But more than getting into showbusiness, Rodelas wanted to finish her studies. Unfortunately, in 2011, she had to drop out of school because their family couldn’t afford it anymore. She looked for ways to earn money and eventually got a job as an assistant for Althea Altamirano, a model for a men’s magazine.
Rodelas and Altamirano became good friends. And with the latter’s coaching, Rodelas eventually got into modeling herself.
“Ang paliwanag niya sa akin, gusto niya makaipon nga [ng pera] at makapasok ulit,” Luz said. “Nitong taon nga na ito, nagpa-enroll siya.”
Because of her determination, Rodelas was able to ensure that her dreams were within reach.
Little did her family know that she would never live to see these dreams come true.
|A girl with ambition. 20-year-old Julie Ann Rodelas.
Julie Ann’s disappearance
On the afternoon of November 6, 2012, Rodelas left their house to take care of her requirements for school. But when evening came, Julie Ann still had not come home.
The next day, at around 3:00 p.m., the Rodelas family received an unexpected visitor—Altamirano’s brother, Charlie. According to Charlie, his sister asked him to return Rodelas’s things because she had been kidnapped.
“Diyos ko! Hindi ko malaman kung ang gagawin ko. Para akong sinakluban ng langit at lupa,” Luz recalled. “Nung sabihin na dinukot, alam ko kasunod nun. Naghi-hysterical na ako.”
Meanwhile, on the same day, a team from the Criminal Investigation and Detection Unit (CIDU) of the Philippine National Police responded to a crime scene in 18th Avenue, Barangay San Roque, Cubao City. Lying in the street was a dead woman, her body covered in blood. She was holding a plastic bag of food from a popular fast food chain. A team from the Scene of Crime Operations of the Central Police District processed the crime scene. Unfortunately, there was nothing on the victim that could help them identify her.
However, they found various physical evidence including a receipt from a fast food chain, presumably where the victim bought her food, and a firearm cartridge.
|The crime scene.
A witness also surfaced and said that the night before the body was found, he saw a black Mitsubishi Montero with plate number TWO505 stop in the street. He also said he heard gunshots.
The authorities sent the information to the Land Registration Office and had them trace the owner of the car. The woman's body was sent to a funeral home for autopsy.
Finding Julie Ann
The next day, the Rodelas family continued their search. They were in a taxi, and were hoping to catch some sight of Rodelas as they drove around the city. The driver overheard their conversation and mentioned that the body of a young woman was found in Cubao the day before.
“Sa taxi pa lang, nag-iiyakan na kami,” Luz recalled. “Diniretso niya na kami dun sa pinagkakitaan niya [ng bangkay].”
When they reached the area, the body was no longer there. They were directed to the morgue it was sent to. Upon reaching the morgue, Luz’s worst nightmares were confirmed.
“Ang anak kong lalaki ang tumingin. Anak ko na nga ang nakahiga doon sa morgue. Binaril sa mukha,” she said. “Para na rin akong mamamatay. Una, anak ko ‘yun. Pangalawa, bunso ko pang anak. ‘Yun pa ang lagi kong kasama araw-araw. Talagang masakit. Kung sana man lang salbaheng bata. Alam ko naman na mabait ang mga anak ko.”
Based on post-mortem examination, Rodelas had been shot four times. She had bullet wounds on different parts of her body. There were also signs of rape.
The Rodelas family immediately coordinated with the CIDU for the investigation of their case.
“Lumabas ‘yung pangalan ni Althea Altamirano na huling kasama ni Julie Ann Rodelas,” said PI Elmer Monsalve, MBA Chief, Homicide Section, CIDU-CPD. “Sabi po nung Althea, forcibly-taken ang kaibigan niya. Sabi niya, nakaalitan daw nito ‘yung boyfriend niya na Chinese.”
Seeing that she might be able to shed light on what happened to Rodelas, the authorities invited Altamirano for questioning. She never showed up.
ABS-CBN went to Altamirano's home and was able to talk to her brother. Altamirano and Rodelas had both worked for the company in the past.
“Sabi po niya, baka raw po siya naman ang isunod,” Charlie said of his sister. “Takot po siya. Sabi ko nga baka po magpakita na siya baka mapagkamalan pa siya.”
Following the evidence
In the meantime, the authorities processed the evidence gathered from the crime scene. One of them was the receipt from a fast food chain found inside the plastic held by the victim.
Every receipt from the cash register has a time stamp which shows that exact date and time the receipt was issued. The time stamp on the receipt from the crime scene indicated that it was issued at 2:33 a.m. on November 6, 2012. It showed that there was only a one hour difference between the time the receipt was issued and when Rodelas's body was found.
The authorities got in touch with the fast food chain that issued the receipt and looked through their CCTV footage. The video showed a man buying food at exactly 2:33 a.m. The man was identified as Fernando Quiambao Jr., also known as JR.
“Ayon dun sa isang testigo namin, si JR ay boyfriend ni Althea Altamirano,” PI Elmer Monsalve said. “Dun tumibay ang suspetsa namin na siya ang aming primary suspect.”
|CCTV footage from the fast food chain. The video showed Althea Altamirano’s boyfriend, Fernando Quiamboao Jr., purchasing a meal at 2:33 a.m.
Upon discovering this information, the authorities began staking out Altamirano’s home in Imus, Cavite.
“Bawat lumalabas, pinasusundan po namin hanggang ‘yung isang sasakyan dumeretso ng Apalit,” PI Monsalve recounted. “Nagkaroon na ng surveillance o tailing na tinatawag hanggang sa nakarating ng Apalit. Nung makarating ng Apalit, may pumasok sa isang compound na bahay.”
That’s when they sighted the black Montero with plate no. TWO505.
LTO records showed that the black Montero was registered to Fernando Quiambao Jr.’s mother.
“Obligado kaming kunin ‘yung TWO505 na sasakyan dahil ‘yun ang nakita sa crime scene,” PI Monsalve said. “At the same time naman, nung inoperate na namin ‘yung bahay na kinalalagyan ng TWO505, nandun si Quimbao at Althea Altamirano.”
He said, she said
At the police station, Altamirano recounted her version of the crime.
She said that her feelings were hurt when she found out that Rodelas was spreading rumors about her. And when her boyfriend, JR, found out about it, he crafted a plan to teach Rodelas a lesson.
“Ang plano, lulumpuhin lang [si Julie Ann],” Althea said. “Pero hindi ko alam na gagahasain at papatayin pa nila. Hindi ko po alam ang ginawa nila kay Jaja. Iyon po ang totoo.”
|Deadly rivalry. Victim Julie Ann Rodelas and suspect Althea Altamirano.
Quiambao, meanwhile, denied having anything to do with the crime.
The authorities mounted a follow-up operation in Barangay Culiat, Quezon City and apprehended the other suspects. One of the suspects, Fahad Usman, was killed in the encounter while suspects Jaymar Waradje and Gelan Pasawilan were arrested.
Upon his arrest, Waradje pledged full cooperation in the investigation. The suspect-turned-witness unraveled his account of the crime.
“Si Althea po ang mastermind at si JR ang nag-utos sa amin,” he said. “Sabi niya inagrabyado ang girlfriend niya. Kasama ako sa pagdukot pero ‘yung pagpatay at pang-rape, hindi po.”
Waradje implicated suspects Efren Talib and “Alyas Aldos” in the rape of the victim. Both suspects remain at large.
In light of the evidence and testimonies gathered, suspects Althea Altamirano, Fernando Quiambao Jr., Efren Talib, Alyas Aldos, Gelan Pasawilan, and Jaymar Wardje were charged with murder.
Pasawilan was also charged with illegal possession of firearms.
The Rodelas family, meanwhile, continue to plead for help for the arrest of the remaining suspects as they begin the long quest for justice.