MANILA – The suspect in the gruesome killing of five people, including three minors, in Baguio City earlier this week denied committing the crime and claimed he is a victim of a ''frame-up."
Philip Tolentino Avino, who surrendered to Manila Vice Mayor Isko Moreno before dawn on Wednesday, said he was already on his way to Manila when the killing occurred.
''Nung umaga nasa byahe na ako, nasa bus na ako. Ang pagkakamali ko lang hindi ko naitago ang ticket,'' Avino told dzMM.
Avino has been accused of stabbing dead Dave de Guzman, 7; Raymond Delmendo, 8; Joey Nociete Jr., 9; Jacquelyn Nociete, 19; and Jonalyn Lozano, 32, inside the Nociete residence along Kayang Street last Sunday, April 6.
In an interview on Tuesday, Senior Superintendent Rolando Miranda, Baguio City Police director, said witnesses saw Avino entering the house around the same time the victims were believed to be killed.
Miranda said investigators are looking into the recent breakup of Avino and the Nociete family's employee, Samantha (not her real name), as the reason behind the massacre.
Samantha works at the eatery business of the Nociete family.
Samantha was supposedly with her employers at the eatery when the killing occurred. She is now cooperating with the police to capture Avino, Miranda said.
Miranda said Samantha told investigators that she broke up with Avino last April 4 because the latter was a beater.
Samantha said Avino did not accept her decision to split up with him. She said Avino went to visit her at the Nociete residence last April 5.
The Nocietes, however, refused to let Avino inside their house. Avino then allegedly issued threats against the Nociete family.
Avino believes he is a victim of a frame-up. He claimed that the policemen handling the case seemed to be concealing the truth behind the crime.
He said on the day of the massacre, while he was on his way to Manila, Samantha sent him a text message. He said Samantha suddenly changed her mood and asked him to go back to her.
''Magka-text po kami noon. Wala po siyang binabanggit sa akin, nagtataka ako wala siyang binabanggit. Sinasabi niya, 'Mahal na mahal kita, gusto kong pumunta sa iyo, nasaan ka ba?''' he said.
Avino said he only learned that he has been tagged as a suspect in the crime from a fellow market worker.
Avino believes that the police investigators are up to something. He said this is the reason why he chose to surrender to Moreno instead of the Baguio policemen who were sent to Manila.
''Hawak siya (Samantha) ng pulis Baguio, ayaw pakawalan. Iyon ang hinihiling ko, sana pakawalan nila,'' he said.
''Kapag sinasabi niyang nasa labas siya, kunwari sa tulay, iba yung tunog eh, may ugong. Parang hindi nasa tulay. Walang tunog na parang may sasakyang dumadaan."
Avino added that his feud with Samantha, whom he said had left him for another man, is not enough reason for him to kill someone, let alone five people including three innocent children.
Pieces of evidence available
Miranda welcomed the latest development in the case, saying it would be better for Avino to subject himself to an investigation to finally shed light on the murder.
Miranda said it is only normal for a suspect like Avino to deny participation in a crime, but he said the suspect's claims will be tested by the pieces of evidence such as fingerprints recovered from the crime scene.
''Lahat ng ebidensya at testimonya na nakuha namin during the course of investigation eh sa kanya tumutugma, kaya na-establish namin ang identity niya,'' Miranda told dzMM.
Police investigators earlier said the Nociete matriarch, Vilma, received a text from Jacquelyn saying an unidentified man dropped by the house.
Avino said if it was him that Jacquelyn had referred to, it would be impossible for the latter not to recognize him.
Miranda, however, said investigators are looking into the possibility that it was not Jacquelyn who sent the message, as her phone's SIM card was missing and the writing style of the sender did not resemble hers.