Trinidad “Trina” Etong, wife of ABS-CBN news anchor Ted Failon Etong, passed away at 8:50 pm Thursday after suffering from a gunshot wound to the head that her family said was self-inflicted more than a day earlier.
ABS-CBN vice-president for Manila Radio and Sports Division Peter Musngi, who was in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) of the New Era Hospital in Quezon City where Trina was being treated, said the patient's condition turned for the worse at 8:25 pm after her blood pressure went down.
He said at least six medical attendants tried to save the patient, but nothing happened.
As of posting, Musngi said Failon had already called for a priest who will administer the final blessings on his 44-year-old wife.
"Ted is inconsolable," Musngi said. "He is both sad and angry."
Kin taken into custody
Shortly before Trina’s death, members of the Quezon Police District-Criminal Investigation and Detection Unit arrested four of her relatives for questioning.
Investigators held Trina's siblings, Pamela Arteche-Trinchera and Maximo Arteche, along with two others, identified as Mary Ann Ronda and Jacqueline Perez.
They were taken from the New Era General Hospital, as they stood watch over Failon's wife.
Police charged Pamela with obstruction of justice.
As of posting, Pamela had already been released and was able to return to the hospital at around 11 pm following her sister’s death.
Police said they would no longer charge Maximo for obstruction of justice after he tried to stop the police from arresting his sister, Pamela. Maximo was also released from custody.
In an interview on Bandila, Kaye Etong, eldest daughter of Failon, criticized the Quezon City police for their allegedly inhumane way of treating her relatives.
“My relatives are not criminals. They just wanted to take care of my mother,” Kaye said.
She said the police had no warrants of arrest when they took into custody her relatives.
Kaye said she believes her mother felt the stress from the commotion brought about the police’s warrantless arrests, which contributed to her passing away.
“I think mama felt the stress,” she said.
Kaye said that when her mother tried to kill herself on Wednesday, she was alone, and when she died, she was without her siblings.
She asked the police: “Are you content with what you’ve done to us? What else do you want to do to us?”
Kaye said there were no inconsistencies in the statements of her father and the helpers who were in their home when her mother attempted to kill herself.
“It’s very painful to admit before the public that she tried to take her life. It’s hard to admit before national TV that my mom committed suicide,” she said crying. “Stop all these charges already.”
Senior Superintendent Elmo San Diego of the Quezon City Police District said he will investigate claims by Failon's relatives that policemen used excessive force in taking them into custody.
“Well kasi, meron akong hazy na report, I’m just waiting for the official report from the field. Kasi daw, meron daw allegedly, yung kapatid daw ni Trina nag-scandalo dun. The police officers tried their best to contain the situation,” San Diego said.
“Ang problema nga, meron sinasabi sakin yung mga friends natin, nakita naman sa footages parang meron daw excess na, excessive force na ginawa yung mga bata. And at this point, I'll have to investigate. Bukas susubmit tayo ng report at aantayin ko yung report na manggagaling sa mga bata sa field. Wala pa kasi official na report na binibigay sakin,” he added.
Lack of respect?
Commission on Human Rights (CHR) chief Leila de Lima said based on videos of the arrests, there appear to be numerous violations of police procedure and a lack of respect for what the family was going through.
She also raised the possibility that the Quezon City police’s actions against Failon were a retaliation against ABS-CBN’s exclusive video footage of the summary killings of alleged car thieves near the National Irrigation Administration in Quezon City.
“I hope that this is not part of any design to harass Ted Failon or any other TV personalities, especially of your station. I hope, ha,” she said. “Baka naman harassment ito dahil nga, it was ABS-CBN which caught on cam that incident on EDSA-NIA.”
De Lima added that they will investigate the arrests.
Meanwhile, the justice department ordered the Bureau of Immigration to place Failon on its watchlist.
Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez said Thursday Failon is considered a suspect at this time in the shooting of his wife, who was found in their home Wednesday with a gunshot wound to the head.
"I instructed the Bureau of Immigration to put him on the watchlist," Gonzalez said.
Police are still trying to determine if the shooting was a suicide attempt or foul play.
In a press conference Thursday morning, National Capital Region police chief Roberto Rosales said everyone at Failon's residence will be treated as a suspect, including the ABS-CBN news anchor himself.
Negative for gunpowder
A paraffin test on Failon yielded negative results. But Rosales clarified this is not yet conclusive.
"Walang makapagsabi na suicide, walang nagsabi na may bumaril. We will depend on evidence that we have recovered and will still be recovering from the area," Rosales said.
Speaking to ABS-CBN late Wednesday night, Ted said his wife may have tried to commit suicide because of financial problems.
"Kung ano man ang problema na iyan, kung pera man yan o anuman yan, kikitain ko lang iyan. It's all about the family's finances,” he said.
Failon also tried to assure his wife by saying, “Mommy, galing tayo sa wala eh, di pino-problema iyan."
Helpers taken into custody
Police on Thursday took into custody Failon's helpers.
Carlota Morbos, Frida Bollecer, Pacifico Apacible, and driver Glen Polan-- were all taken to Camp Karingal for possible obstruction of justice after the bathroom where Failon's wife was found and the vehicle used to bring her to the hopsital were cleaned.
Morbos, Bollecer, and Polan were detained in the police headquarters after they were charged with obstruction of justice. Apacible, a relative of Trina, was released following Trina’s death.
Morbos, Bollecer, Polan, Apacible, and Pamela Trinchera will have to post P12,000 bail each on Friday.
PAO told to stop helping Failon
Gonzalez, meanwhile, has asked the Public Attorney's Office (PAO) to stop meddling with Failon's case.
Gonzalez said PAO chief Persida Acosta cannot represent Failon unless ordered by the court.
Earlier, Acosta said Failon should be allowed to move without restrictions since no charges have been filed against him at this time.
Failon is under police custody. He has also been charged with obstruction of justice and will have to post bail.
"It is not within their [PAO] mandate. I will charge them if they insist on handling the case. I already called Acosta and I also sent her a memo. She can't represent conflicting interest unless the court orders her to assist Failon on the spot. What I don't like is that she already talked to the relatives of the wife and to forensic experts and is contemplating on helping them file charges,” Gonzalez said.
Pamela, Failon's sister-in-law, confirmed it was Trina who wrote the letter of apology that Failon presented to police investigators.
She also said that contrary to reports, Ted and Trina did not have a heated argument prior to the shooting.
Investigators also took a second look at the house of Failon on Thursday, and the result may help the broadcaster clear his name in the shooting of his wife.
San Diego said investigators found the trajectory of the bullet that went through Trina's head inside the bathroom where she was found.
“Nung una, ang sepculation inilipat yon at hindi talaga yun yung scene, pero yung second search na ginawa, nitong SOCO na ‘to, yung second processing, lumabas ngayon na dun pala kasi nakita na yung bullet marks dun sa dingding. Sa tingin ko na pabor kay Kuya Ted ‘to,” he added.
San Diego also said they may return to Failon's house several more times to be able to complete their investigation. -- with reports from ANC; ABS-CBN's Jorge Cariño, Ces Drilon, Ron Gagalac, Korina Sanchez, Willard Cheng, Gretchen Malalad, Joey Villarama, Wheng Hidalgo, Alex Santos, Alvin Elchico, Marieton Pacheco, Niña Corpuz, Nadia Trinidad; DZMM reports