MANILA, Philippines - The Alpha Phi Omega (APO) fraternity on Friday said their fraternity brother and Bar exam blast suspect, Anthony Leal Nepomuceno, was in Marikina during the September 26 explosion outside the De La Salle University (DLSU) on Taft Avenue, Manila that injured nearly 50 people.
APO member Ferdie Ramos said Nepomuceno, a call center agent, was at home in Marikina City with his parents from morning until 5 p.m. on the day of the blast.
He said Nepomuceno went to the Riverside Mall at 5 p.m., bought shoes and withdrew money from the bank at around 7:30 p.m. He later reported for work at a call center in Ortigas before 1 a.m. Monday, September 27.
"He didn’t know about the bombing because he wasn’t up to date with the news. He just went to work that day," Ramos told abs-cbnNEWS.com.
Ramos said the fraternity is convinced that Nepomuceno is innocent of the bombing because none of the 50 APO members present during the traditional "Salubong" outside DLSU ever saw him during the incident.
"We have the capability to find out if it is true, if we had a hand in it, but so far, none of our members who were there during the bombing could say that Nepomuceno was there," he said.
Ramos said Nepomuceno is not a law or criminology student as was first reported, but an IT graduate.
The APO member revealed that Nepomuceno was only linked to the crime because he was overheard bragging that someone from APO was responsible for the bombing.
"Kung may kasalanan man ang aming brod, ang pinakamalaking kasalanan nito sa amin sa APO ay nung ito'y nakainom, nagkwento ito sa kanyang kaibigan, dalawa lang silang nagkwekwentuhan [at sinabi niya] na, 'Kung saan saan pa naghahanap ng bomber diyan e APO ang nagbomba diyan.' Narinig daw ito ng isang messenger at nawala ito. E may reward ito na multimillion-peso kaya ito ang dahilan kung bakit siya ang naituro," Ramos said in a separate radio dzMM interview.
The APO member said he does not know if Nepomuceno will be sanctioned for dragging the fraternity into the bombing. "It was a private conversation. Nagyayabangan lang sila," he said.
'NBI case doesn't hold up'
He also raised doubt about some of the alleged evidence pinning Nepomuceno to the crime.
Last Wednesday, Vice-Present Jejomar Binay and former Justice Secretary Silvestre Bello III brought Nepomuceno to the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) for questioning. The suspect is now facing charges of frustrated murder and multiple attempted murder charges.
According to Ramos, APO only informed NBI that they would be surrendering Nepomuceno before 9 a.m. on Wednesday. "So how where they able to produce the 3 witnesses at 10 a.m. to identify him?" he asked.
He said that during the police line-up, one of the witnesses punched Nepomuceno before he could be restrained.
Ramos, however, noted that the same incident also happened when the NBI had Cebuano law student Jed Lazaga in custody. Lazaga was later freed by authorities.
"I’m sorry to say but this seems to be stage-managed to create emotion na tiyakin na ang brod namin ay kasama sa nangyari," he said.
He also downplayed De Lima's statement that Nepomuceno matched the artist's sketch released by NBI. He said APO believes the NBI only copied the sketch from Nepomuceno's Facebook picture.
Even while insisting on Nepomuceno's innocence, Ramos said the APO continues to support the NBI's quest for justice for the Bar exam blast victims.
"We are one with the NBI in finding justice and finding the suspect. They must continue to look for the suspect because our frat bother, Anthony, is not the bomber," he said.
He said at least two other fraternities have raised doubts about Nepomuceno's culpability.
Ramos also rejected talk that APO covers up for the misdemeanors of its members.
He cited the case of University of Makati student EJ Karl Intia, who died during initiation rites by APO fraternity members.
Ramos said that after an investigation, he told police that at least 23 APO members were involved in the incident.
Five APO members were arrested for Intia’s death, but were later freed after the city prosecutor decided to drop the charges against them.
"We do not cover up and we do not condone the misdemeanors of our frat brothers," he said.