MANILA, Philippines – The Barrameda family on Friday said it was surprised that suspect Robert Ponce immediately admitted his participation in the murder of Ruby Rose over five years ago.
Ponce, who was arrested in Cauayan, Isabela on Wednesday, said he did not kill Ruby Rose but admitted he was the one who mixed and poured cement into the steel case where the victim's body was stuffed in 2007.
Rochelle, Ruby Rose's sister, said she and her parents were overwhelmed by Ponce's admission. Her family believes Ponce's testimony is a major breakthrough to their five-year struggle for justice.
"Noong pinaupo na po siya (Ponce), at may tinanong ang media, bigla po siyang nagsalita, dere-deretso. Even kami talagang na-surpise kasi inaasahan naming ide-deny niya ang crime pero siguro God's will na rin po na talagang sinabi niya na may participation siya," Rochelle told radio dzMM.
Ponce, who also admitted that he had been receiving a monthly allowance of P7,000 from the Jimenezes, said he is willing to turn state witness.
But Rochelle said they have yet to consult with their lawyer and the Department of Justice if it is possible for Ponce to become a state witness. The Barrameda family is set to meet with Justice Secretary Leila de Lima today to discuss the possibility of tapping Ponce as state witness.
Nevertheless, the Barramedas are glad that someone finally surfaced to corroborate the testimony of their lone witness, Manuel Montero, who had came out in 2009 to help authorities find the sunken drum in the waters off Navotas.
"Magiging matibay ang kaso namin, at least may papanig sa kaniya (Montero)," Rochelle said.
Stuffed in a steel drum
Ruby Rose went missing in 2007 at a time when she was having a dispute with her estranged husband, Manuel Jimenez III, over the custody of their two children.
Due to Montero's testimony, murder charges were filed against lawyer Manuel Jimenez Jr., the father-in-law of Ruby Rose; Lope Jimenez, Manuel III's uncle; and alleged henchmen Eric Fernandez; Lennard Descalzo; and Ponce.
Among the suspects, only Lope and Fernandez remain at large. Manuel Jr., according to Rochelle, is under hospital arrest.
Parricide charges were filed against Manuel III, but the Regional Trial Court of Navotas ordered the suspension of the proceedings.
Ponce, Descalzo and Fernandez, according to Montero, were tasked to abduct Ruby Rose from the Jimenez residence in BF Homes, Las Piñas City after visiting her children and bring her to the Buena Suerte Jimenez Fishing and Trading Compound, owned by Lope, where she would be killed.
Montero said Barrameda was strangled to death and was placed inside a steel drum, which was cemented before it was finally put inside a steel casing.
Rochelle said hearings on the case have also been delayed after Manuel Jr. sought for the inhibition of the judge handling the case in February this year.
The Court of Appeals eventually approved Manuel Jr.'s petition and re-raffled the case. It also ordered that the hearings be suspended indefinitely.
Rochelle feared that the Jimenezes are now working to minimize the damage wrought by Ponce's admission to their defense.
She said even before Ponce arrived at the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) headquarters, a lawyer allegedly sent by the Jimenezes was already waiting for the arrested suspect.
"Very alarming lang dahil wala pa siya sa NBI, may abugado na ang mga Jimenez doon. Hinahanap na po siya, after po ng interview niya sa media, nagpakilala na si Atty. Domingo na abugado ng isang suspek na si Spike Descalzo, na kumbaga pressured lang iyung Ponce kaya nakapag-salita daw ng ganoon," she said.
Rochelle said the Jimenezes were also reportedly asking that Ponce be detained at the Navotas City Jail instead of being placed under the custody of the NBI, whose Special Task Force led by Roland Argabioso conducted a three-month surveillance that led to Ponce's arrest.
"Nakakatakot baka may mangyaring masama sa witness naming," Rochelle said.
Ruby Rose's mother Asuncion, meanwhile, said she is thankful for this significant progress on her slain daughter's case.
"Kahapon talagang hindi ko alam ang feeling ko. Kasi parang bumabalik sa akin ang 5 years ago na nangyari sa anak ko. 'Yung narinig namin kay Montero noon, iyun din ang sinasabi niya (Ponce)," Asuncion said.
Rochelle also thanked the NBI for its work.
"Of course doon sa informant nila, sa asset na naglakas loob na ituro kung nasan si Robert Ponce. Nagpapasalamat di ako sa buong team na nagtiyaga na pumunta ng Isabela," she said.