Questions Ramona left unanswered

by Gigi Grande, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 09 2011 02:42 AM | Updated as of Nov 11 2011 11:52 PM

On November 4, a colleague received a phone call from an influential person. He requested we interview his relative, as soon as possible, live, over the phone, on the ABS-CBN News Channel (ANC). We jumped at the chance. The Philippine media had been trying to find Ramona Bautista for days.

Ramona, 22 years old, daughter of former Senator Ramon Revilla Sr. and sister of murdered actor Ram Bautista Revilla, was careful not to disclose her location. She had been tagged an accomplice to the crime. Her younger brother Ramon Joseph or RJ, only 18 years old, is accused of being the mastermind.

Since that interview, people have been asking me if Ramona is guilty. I honestly do not know. It’s a matter that must be left to investigators and the courts. But here are five things I find disturbing:

Fake abduction

Questions Ramona left unanswered 1
In her initial statement to police in the early hours of October 29, Ramona said two men forced her into a van after Ram and his girlfriend Janelle Manahan were attacked in the Bautista residence in BF Homes, Paranaque City. The men drove around for about an hour before they abandoned her on a main road. From there, she walked to nearby Starmall in Las Pinas. She sought the help of a security guard who, in turn, reported the matter to officer-on-duty JM Magbanua at about 1:30 a.m.

When I interviewed Ramona on November 4, she admitted she made up the story about her abduction. She said she was ashamed to admit she had abandoned Ram and Janelle. She recounted that after the attack, she ran down to the car and wanted to get as far away as possible. She feared the killer was still in the house. She said she drove straight to the police station.

But she had yet another version of events in a video-recorded statement sent to ABS-CBN on November 5. She said her siblings fetched her from the house moments after the attack. She said she sat in the car and said nothing to them.

This version raises more questions. If her siblings had fetched her, why didn't she tell them someone had just attacked Ram and Janelle? Why didn’t they bring the two victims to the hospital? And why is it that Ramona showed up at the Starmall by herself? Surely her siblings wouldn’t leave her to walk to the mall alone at 1:30 a.m. –-especially not without any shoes on. At the police station, she was surrounded by strangers until about 2:30 a.m. when her half-brother Senator Bong Revilla arrived. The siblings who supposedly fetched her from the Bautista residence were nowhere in sight.

Did Ramona take her car straight to the police station as she told ANC on November 4? Police say she was brought to the Las Pinas Police Station by Police Supt. Lara, who responded to the call of a Starmall security officer who reported a dazed woman walking in the vicinity.

What, then, really happened that night? Where was Ramona between 11:44 p.m. of October 28 and 1:30 a.m. of October 29?

Left for dead?

Questions Ramona left unanswered 2
At 11:44 p.m. of October 28, Patrol 117 received a call from one Wendell Cunanan who said his friend Janelle was shot by unidentified men in the Bautista home in BF Homes.

Ramona had already disappeared at the time. Janelle mustered the strength to send Wendell a text message before 11:44 p.m.

In her interview on ANC, Ramona said she fled the crime scene because she thought both Ram and Janelle were dead. She said Ram was the first to go. She said she ran to Janelle and tried to help her but soon, even Janelle was no longer responding.

Yet it’s difficult to believe Janelle appeared lifeless that evening. The police report and Wendell’s report contradict Ramona’s claim. Even Janelle’s father told ABS-CBN Janelle recalled falling to the floor, but she never lost consciousness.

We know Janelle managed to text a friend to ask for help. It was also Janelle who waved down to barangay officials from the 2nd-floor bedroom to call their attention. And Janelle managed to walk down to the ground floor of the house with the assistance of a paramedic. Photos of Janelle from the night of the attack show her wounded, but sitting in an upright position. She was not even on a stretcher.

Super-strength?

The National Bureau of Investigation's autopsy report reveals Ram was stabbed 10 times before being shot once to ensure the kill. Authorities believe he died within two minutes.

All this, according to Ramona, happened outside Ram’s bedroom. But in his last two minutes on earth, based on Ramona’s story, a badly-wounded Ram managed to run back into the room, fight off the perpetrator and lock him outside.

Ramona said Ram saved her life. If it weren’t for Ram, she may have been killed as well.

But If the attacker was locked out, couldn't Ramona have called for help from inside the bedroom? There was at least one cell phone in the room as Janelle managed to send text messages to a friend.

Two attackers

On October 29, a disheveled and distraught-looking Ramona gave her statement to the Las Pinas Police. She said there were two perpetrators who entered the Bautista home, although she only described in detail one of the two.

Later, she said the two men forced her into a van. The man wearing a mask sat beside her, while the other man was driving the van, she said.

In the November 4 interview on ANC, Ramona very clearly stated there was only one perpetrator. It is not clear why she had initially mentioned two assailants.

It's also not clear why the perpetrator shot Janelle, stabbed and shot Ram, yet did not lay a finger on Ramona.

Ramona said she tried to help the bloodied Janelle. But based on close-up shots taken by TV cameras, there was no blood on her clothes, socks or hands when she went to the Las Pinas station to give her statement.

Why leave?

Questions Ramona left unanswered 3
Why did Ramona leave the country? The family lawyer said she was trying to escape the media. Ramona explained she lives in another country and was just visiting when the attack happened. Her mother said Ramona feared for her life, and yet an unnamed relative reportedly told a leading broadsheet that her husband had ordered her to return to Turkey. Which one is it?

When Ramona wanted to be interviewed, it was easy to contact her. But after she admitted lying to police, we could no longer get her back on the line. The line kept getting cut, and then it just went dead.

Hours later, she was spotted at the departure area of the airport. And now, we have even more questions left unanswered.