Eleuterio Antonio vividly remembers how the fire engulfed the vehicle, consuming with it the life of the person inside—his sister Antonia. People were trying to help, dousing the car with water. But it was too late.
The car, with her sister inside it, has been totally burned down.
Antonia and Romeo Golez got married in 1978. They lived a happy and comfortable life. But in spite of the blessings, they felt incomplete. They were unable to bear a child.
In 1991, their prayers were finally answered. They were able to adopt a baby girl. They named her Princess Rose-Ann. And, according to Eleuterio, the girl was indeed treated like a princess. “Ni kamag-anak nga niya hindi pwedeng lumapit nang hindi ka maghuhugas ng alcohol,” he says. “That time talaga, sila ay happy family.”
Blessed with a princess. Antonia and Romeo Golez adopted Princess Rose-Ann in 1991.
But when Princess turned 12, everything changed. She found out that she was adopted and turned cold towards Antonia and Romeo. Eleuterio says Princess became rude to her parents. “Sinasabihan [sila ni Princess] ng ‘Bakit hindi ka pa mamatay, matanda ka’,” he recalls.
But despite this, the couple’s unconditional love for their adopted daughter never wavered.
Unconditional love. Despite Princess’s change in demeanor towards the couple, Antonia and Romeo continued to shower her with love.
On 2008, Romeo passed away and Antonia was left to take care of her. Princess also inherited a million peso worth of insurance from her father.
A year later, tragedy would strike the family again.
Around eight in the morning of September 9, 2009, Eleuterio received a phone call—her sister’s car was found burning the side of the zigzag road in Barangay San Jose, Rodriguez, Rizal. And inside the car was her sister who died in the blazing fire.
News about the fire reached the Rodriguez, Rizal police. But before they were able to respond to the incident, a man turned up at the station. He claimed to have been beaten up by his girlfriend’s relatives and wanted to have them blottered.
After the interruption, PO2 Rizalino Pontila and his men proceeded to the location of the burning vehicle.
The car was still burning when they arrived. And the fire fighters were finally able to put out the fire, they saw the remnants of a burned down body. “Nakita [naming] ‘yung sunog na tao na nakahiga between the passenger at driver seat,” Pontila says. “Totally burnt na. Wala na ‘yung utak niya. ‘Yung ngipin niya, sunog na. ‘Yung abdomen niya, nakalitaw na.”
The crime scene. By the time the authorities arrived, the fire had already engulfed the vehicle.
PO2 Pontila and his men had an inkling that this was not an accident since the fire came from the inside of the vehicle and not from the engine.
They spoke with Eleuterio, who was already at the scene that time, and found out that before the supposed accident, Antonia was with her adopted daughter, Princess. Immediately, they summoned the girl.
According to Princess, she and her mother had a fight. “Nag-away kami habang nagmamaneho,” she says in an interview documented by TV Patrol Word. “Kumuha siya ng container ng gas mula sa likod at sa kaliwang kamay ay may lighter. Ibinuhos niya sa akin.” After that, Princess claimed that she was able to unlock the door and jump out of the car.
A story the authorities doubted.
Princess’s story. Gus Abelgas interviewing the victim’s adopted daughter, Princess.
PO2 Pontila thought it would be physically impossible for 58-year-old Antonia to reach for the bottle of gasoline and ignite a fire while driving. He also believed that the lighter belonged to Princess. “Tinanong ko [si Princess], ‘Ikaw ba ay naninigarilyo?’” PO2 Pontila says. “Sabi ko, ‘Sa’yo galing ang lighter, hindi sa nanay mo’.”
Eleuterio also became suspicious of Princess’s story.
“Pagdating ko sa scene, dinatnan ko [si Princess] nagti-text. Di niya iniindtindi ang ina-inahan niya. Anong klaseng tao ito?” he says.
In order to support their theory, the authorities went back to the crime scene where they found two witnesses who finally shed light on what really happened.
According to one of the witnesses named Diego Santilices, he and his friend were hanging out at a nearby store when a red car drove by and they saw someone throw a plastic container of gasoline out the window. Then suddenly, according to Diego, a woman jumped out of the car, stood up, and ran towards a van trailing the red car.
A few seconds later, they saw that the red car was already on fire.
Evidence. A witness saw a red car drive by and then a woman throwing a bottle of gasoline out the window.
Another witness, Necy Del Pilar Pido, also saw the car. Based on her sworn affidavit, Necy witnessed two women inside the car fighting.
Princess’s involvement also became more apparent when the authorities confiscated her mobile phone and saw that she has been sending messages to a one Jun Venegas, telling him to drive the Nissan Urvan closer to her mother’s car.
Because of this, Rolando Venegas alyas Jun became a suspect too.
Aside from Jun, the authorities also suspected that Princess’s boyfriend, Melvin de Leon, has something to do with the fire.
But if it was, indeed true that Melvin and Princess were behind the killing of Antonia, what was their motive?
In the name of love
According to Eleuterio, Princess and Melvin had been living together for a while. Antonia was against Melvin but Princess’ world revolved around him and did anything he asked her to do. “Sa totoo lang, ang lalaking ‘yang ang puno’t dulo kaya nasira rin ang buhay ng batang iyan,” he says. “Hindi [niya] kayang gawin ‘yun kung walang nananaig sa kaniyang puso para sa lalaki.” Eleuterio adds.
The authorities also believed that Antonia was killed over Princess’s inheritance.
As PO2 Pontila was piecing all the information together, he realized that the man who turned up at the police station earlier to have his girlfriend’s relatives blottered was none other than Princess’s boyfriend, Melvin.
The police interrogated Princess and Melvin. They both denied killing Antonia.
Despite their denial, the authorities filed a complaint against Princess for parricide and Melvin for conspiracy as accessory.
After reviewing the complaint, the fiscal found that there was sufficient basis to raise the complaint to the courts. It was also discovered that Princess wasn’t properly adopted by the Golez’s hence rendering her adoption null. From parricide, she was charged with murder.
In the name of love. According to the victim’s brother, Princess’s mother did not approve of her boyfriend who was allegedly a drug user.
While, the case is still being tried at the Regional Trial Court Branch 77, both Princess and Melvin are currently detained at the San Mateo, Rizal Bureau of Jail Management and Penology detention facility. The driver, Jun Venegas, remains at large.
Antonia’s family, meanwhile, wait for the day when the verdict is given and they are finally served justice. (END)