Pretty, good-natured, and light-hearted. That's how the residents of Barangay Bila in Sison, Pangasinan described young Shanika Toquero.
Her beauty and pleasing personality made her popular among boys, especially when she became the flag bearer of their town's drum and lyre corps.
Almost everyday, after school, Shanika attended their group's rehearsals. Her mother, Felomina, made sure that Shanika updated her about her whereabouts.
"Gusto ko 'yung makakausap ko talaga siya, kung nasaan na siya at kung anong oras siya uuwi," Felomina Toquero said. "Kaya hindi talaga ako nawawalan ng load kaya tinututukan ko talaga."
Popular girl. Young Shanika Toquero was widely admired by the residents of Barangay Bila in Sison, Pangasinan.
On July 20, 2013, Shanika attended another one of their practices. She promised to be home by 7:00 p.m., but come 7:00 p.m., there was no sign of Shanika. Her mother tried calling her but her cell phone could not be reached.
"Kinakabahan ako at galit na 'yung nararamdaman ko," Felomina said. "Nagagalit din 'yung ama niya. Ayaw rin talaga niyang sumali diyan sa drum and lyre na 'yan kasi nga gabihan 'yun."
They searched for Shanika everywhere but no one knew where she was. Then on the way home, they noticed a group of people huddled by the irrigation canal.
"May tao, sabi nila," Felomina said. "Napaiyak na ako kaya sabi ko, naku, baka ayan na 'yung anak ko."
When they reached the area, they saw the body of a young girl they recognized as Shanika.
"Nakabukaka na siya tapos 'yung ano niya, naka-ganoon na, wala nang natirang damit," Felomina said. "Hindi ko nga tiningnan at nanghina na nga ako. 'Yung mga paa lang niya 'yung nakita ko. Hindi ko kayang matingnan 'yung anak ko."
The crime scene. The body of Shanika Toquero was found by the irrigation canal in Barangay Bila in Sison, Pangasinan.
Stabbed to death
The Sison Police responded to the crime scene.
"Nadatnan namin sa crime scene 'yung batang babae, walang saplot," PSI Raymond Nicolas, Former Chief of Police in Sison, Pangasinan recalled. "Puro saksak 'yung katawan niya. Wala nang buhay nung makita namin sa tabi ng rice mill."
Initial investigation showed that the victim was raped.
Authorities also recovered several pieces of evidence in the area such as the victim's bag and jeans. They also saw blood stains on the road, which they used to formulate a theory on how the victim was killed.
Because of the direction of the blood stains, the authorities believed that the victim was walking down the road when she was attacked and stabbed by the suspect after which she was dragged towards the irrigation canal where she was raped.
Based on post-mortem examination, Shanika sustained 16 stab wounds. The medico legal officer also found defensive wounds on the victim.
The examination also confirmed the police's initial suspicion that Shanika was raped.
"Base sa examination natin sa genital ng biktima, merong fresh laceration," Medico Legal Officer PSupt. Nerino Daciego M.D. said. "Ang fresh laceration ay ang pagpasok ng isang matigas na bagay sa ari. Ito ay nagpapatunay na may penetration sa ari ng biktima. Ito'y katunayan na hinalay ang biktima."
Unfortunately, the authorities had no clue as to who the perpetrator was.
Then one day, two witnesses appeared and revealed what they knew about the murder of Shanika Toquero.
Tracing the killer
ABS-CBN was able to interview one of the witnesses, "Jomar" (not his real name).
According to Jomar, on the night of the murder, he and his friend were walking when they noticed a cell phone by the side of the road. A few feet away, they also noticed a parked tricycle with body no. "46". At that time, they just dismissed what they saw.
They took the phone, and saw a picture of Shanika on it when they turned it on. They thought she just dropped her cell phone until a few days after, they heard that the girl had been murdered. That's when they decided to go to the police.
The police then traced the owner of the tricycle and discovered that it belonged to a man named Eduardo Santos. But when they spoke with him, Santos said that, while he owned the tricycle, another person drove it—Freddie Abalos.
Based on a tip received by the Sison Police, Abalos was taking refuge in the town of Binalonan, Pangasinan. They immediately conducted an operation and arrested Abalos just as he was about to leave for Baguio.
When Abalos was brought in, he confessed to the crime.
"Base na rin sa kwento ng suspek na umamin, pagkababa ng bus ng bata, sinundan niya habang nakasakay siya sa tricycle," said PSI Nicolas.
"Dun sa barangay road na madilim, walang ilaw, wala masyadong dumadaan, dun na niya sinamantala, sinaksak. Hinila sa tagong lugar sa may irrigation. Obviously, dun na rin niya ginawa 'yung kahalayan niya."
Abalos claimed that before the murder happened, he had a fight with his live-in partner.
"According sa kanya, mainit ulo niya. Lasing. Nag-away sila ng live-in partner niya. 'Yung batang bumaba ng bus, 'yun daw ang napagbalingan niya ng init ng ulo," added PSI Nicolas. "Siguro 'yung sexual desire, naibaling niya dun sa babae."
However, when the authorities conducted a background investigation, they discovered that the suspect was actually a neighbor of the Toqueros.
According to the police, he had probably long developed an interest towards the Shanika because he saw her every day.
Abalos' confession that he killed Shanika was confirmed when analysis showed that Abalos' sperm cells matched those that were found on Shanika's genitals.
Abalos was charged with rape with homicide and is currently detained at the Urdaneta City District Jail.
"Sana pagisishan niya 'yung ginawa niya atsaka pagbayaran niya 'yung krimen na ginawa niya sa anak ko," the victim's mother said. "Demonyo siya kaya sana pagsisihan niya."