June 24, 2004. It was just an ordinary day for Danny Arizala when he went to his niece Catherine Ballesteros’s home in Tejeros, Makati.
He knocked on her door several times at around 4:00 p.m., but there was no answer.
"Ang ginawa ko ngayon, bumaba ako ng first floor, kumuha ako ng kutsilyo, binuksan ko, pinuwersa ko 'yung pinto," Danny said. "Nagduda ako bakit sinarado, hindi naman 'yun nagsasarado."
When he got in, Danny proceeded to Catherine's room which, strangely enough, was padlocked too. Danny then climbed a stool and peeked through the gap between the bedroom wall and the ceiling. What he saw inside the bedroom shocked him—Catherine’s body, lifeless and covered in blood.
He reported the incident to the Makati police, who responded to the crime scene immediately.
"Ang itsura niya, medyo magulo 'yung pagkakahiga at 'yung damit niya, 'yung pantaas niya nakataas," Investigator-on-case SPO2 Noel Pardinas said. "Presumption namin, baka may tangkang gahasain itong biktima, hindi lang natuloy."
While assessing the crime scene, the authorities found a bloody footprint on the bedroom floor. A team from the Southern Police District Scene of Crime Operation arrived and swabbed some samples for possible DNA examination. The authorities believed that the suspect himself could have sustained wounds because they also found blood on the door knob.
After collecting evidence, they sent it to the Philippine National Police (PNP) Crime Laboratory for analysis.
The police also discovered that several items were missing, which led them to believe that robbery was the motive behind the crime.
A ghostly whisper
Catherine's parents rushed to the crime scene upon being informed of their daughter's demise. However, they weren't allowed to enter the house. They were directed to the funeral home instead.
There, Catherine’s mother, Emer, broke down.
"Ano bang mararamdaman ng isang nanay 'pag nalaman mo na patay ang iyong anak?" Emer said. "'Di ba parang nagugunaw din ang mundo mo? "
"Pinalaki mo ‘yung anak mo, pinag-aral mo, inakala mo ‘yung anak mo makakasama mo dahil nag-iisa nga siya, tapos malalaman mo na pinatay lang pala. ‘Di bale sana kung may sakit. Pero ‘yung patayin at nakawin ang buhay na ibinigay ng Diyos, napakasakit sa isang magulang."
Emer couldn't contain herself and hugged her daughter's body. That’s when she claims she heard a whisper.
"May biglang pumasok sa isipan ko,” she said. “Sabi ng anak ko, 'Nay, kung sino ang mawawala dito, siya ang pumatay sa akin.'"
Emer believed that it was Catherine's voice and that her daughter had just given her a clue on who the murderer was.
Emer and her husband stayed even during the autopsy.
“Dun ko nakita na napakaraming sugat ng anak ko kasi habang ino-otopsiya siya ng doktor, kinukuhanan siya ng picture ng asawa ko,” Emer recalled. “Sabi ko, sa huling pagkakataon, titingnan ko ang anak ko. Itatanim ko na lang sa isipan ko na namatay siya, kinuha ng Diyos.”
Based on post-mortem examination, Catherine sustained 33 stab wounds on different parts of her body. Whoever killed her had hit her vital organs.
Meanwhile, the authorities continued to look for the suspect. Since there was no sign of forced entry in Catherine’s house, they deduced that the victim knew her killer.
They asked around the neighborhood and found out that one of Catherine's neighbors was a one Ryan Jay Viscarra a.k.a. "Baba", who was always involved in robberies around the area. They located his house but he was nowhere to be found.
Because of his absence, the police's suspicion heightened.
Coincidentally, SPO2 Paardinas had just spoken to the victim's mother who recounted the whisper she heard inside the morgue.
“Actually, ‘yung information na nanggaling sa kanyang nanay parang nag-corroborate na lang dahil tukoy na rin naming ‘yung taong hinahanap namin na posibleng may gawa nung krimen.”
But where was the suspect?
The search for the killer
On June 27, 2004, three days after Catherine’s body was found, the authorities received a call from a woman named Cynthia Ramirez, who claimed to be the suspect’s aunt.
According to Ramirez, her nephew was recently arrested in Manila for vagrancy. SPO2 Pardinas’s team immediately coordinated with the Western Police District.
When they arrived in Manila, the suspect was already detained.
“Nung makita namin siya, may sugat siya sa kanyang kaliwang kamay at sa kanyang kaliwang hita,” SPO2 Pardinas said. “Ayon sa kanya, ito’y natamo niya nang ginawa niya ang krimen kung saan tinamaan din siya ng saksak habang nanlalaban itong babae. Nasaksak niya ‘yung sarili niya.”
The suspect also recounted how he committed the murder.
“Pagpasok niya, di umano tulog itong biktima,” SPO2 Pardinas says. “Kinuha niya ‘yung mahahalagang bagay tulad ng portable VCD player, ‘yung ibang pera, at habang nasa loob siya ng kwarto ng biktima, ‘di umano nagising kaya ito ay kanyang inagapan. Nagdilim ang kanyang paningin hanggang sa ito’y nasaksak na niya ng ilang beses.”
The suspect also declared that the next day, he turned over the stolen items to his friend, a one Michael Gueverra, in San Andres Bukid.
The authorities seized the items from Guevarra and brought him to the precinct for questioning. They took both suspects’ fingerprints and later matched Viscara’s to the latent prints found at the crime scene. They also took his blood sample and positively matched it to the blood found inside the victim’s bedroom.
Guevarra was eventually released while Viscara was charged with robbery with homicide.
Justice for Catherine
On October 30, 2008, almost four months after the murder of Catherine Ballesteros, the verdict was finally released on Ryan Viscara a.k.a “Baba”. He was found guilty and sentenced to reclusion perpetua. He is currently detained at the New Bilibid Prison.
For Catherine’s mother, the hole in her heart will never fully heal, but now that her daughter’s murderer is behind bars, she could start moving on, as she knows that her daughter is already at peace.
“Masaya. ‘Di maipaliwanag na kasiyahan ang magkaroon ng katarungan,” Emer said. "Pinapatawad ko siya pero kailangan niyang panagutan ang ginawa niya."
Aired on November 3