'Justice for Given Grace'

by Jojo Malig, abs-cbnNEWS.com

Posted at Oct 14 2011 10:02 PM | Updated as of Oct 15 2011 09:00 AM

'Justice for Given Grace' 1
The body of UP Los Baños student Given Grace Cebanico was found in a canal in Barangay Putho-Tuntungin. She had a bullet wound on her forehead and bruises all over her body. Her hands were tied behind her back and masking tape covered her mouth. File Photo

MANILA, Philippines - Police consider the abduction, rape and murder of a University of the Philippines - Los Baños (UPLB) student as a closed case following the arrest of 2 suspects behind the crime.

Security guard Lester Rivera and tricycle driver Percival de Guzman are now pointing fingers at each other on who raped and killed 19-year-old Given Grace Cebanico.

De Guzman described the crime to police and said Rivera was the mastermind.

Rivera, meanwhile, admitted that he shot Cebanico but denied raping her.

Police have confirmed that the victim was sexually abused before she was killed.

Cebanico, a 19-year-old UPLB Computer Science student, was on her way to her dormitory when she was abducted.

Her body was found Tuesday morning in a canal in Barangay Putho-Tuntungin.

She had a bullet wound on her forehead and bruises all over her body. Her hands were tied behind her back and masking tape covered her mouth.

Serial crimes?

Senior Superintendent Edwin Jose Nemenzo, regional director of the PNP Criminal Investigation and Detection Group in the CALABARZON, said that while the 2 men were raping Cebanico, Rivera boasted that he had already killed several people in the past.

"Habang nire-rape nila itong kawawang biktima, nagbida pa siya sa kasama na 7 na raw ang ginawa niya na pagpatay," Nemenzo told TV Patrol on Friday night.

He said investigators will look into the issue. "We will still validate this."

The police official believes that it was not the first time that the 2 suspects committed a similar crime.

"Hindi lang first time ito ng dalawa ito," Nemenzo said. "Malamang, may iba pang na-holdap ito na hindi na-report."

He said Rivera was hired as a security guard by an agency despite having a criminal record.

"Habang hinahabol natin si Lester Rivera, nung makaharap natin ang mga relatives nito, ang sabi kaagad ng mga kamag-anak eh, 'saan na naman nagnakaw?'" Nemenzo revealed.

"Ang ibig sabihin, may history na po ... in fact, may 2 records na siya... ito actually ang nagpalakas ng loob niya," he added.

'Justice for Given Grace' 2
Rape-slay suspects Lester Rivera and Percival de Guzman. File Photo

Bank guard

On the suspect being a bank guard, Nemenzo said the security agency responsible should have done better in checking his background.

"Nagkulang na sila ng background investigation diyan, dahil...parang open secret within his [Rivera] family, may kalikutan ito," he said. "Iyung mga pagnanakaw niya iyung iba doon, hindi na na-record, iyung iba naman doon, naareglo ng parents niya."

Nemenzo said the eyewitness in the case was with Rivera and de Guzman when they kidnapped the girl.

"Inaya siya na habang umiikot sila doon, naghahanap sila actually ng maho-holdup doon," he said. "Kaya lang... iyung witness natin, baguhan lang siya na isinama doon. Noong tinutukan na ito ni Lester Rivera, si Given, at ipinasok na doon sa tricycle, nagtakbo na po ito, iyung ating witness. Iyung testigo natin, in fact, gusto pa sanang habulin ito [witness] ni Lester at patayin para wala nang testigo."

The 2 suspects are set to be brought to inquest proceedings Friday night. Police said Rivera also tried to escape earlier in the day but his attempt was foiled.

Nemenzo said the case brings to mind the 1993 rape-slay of Eileen Sarmenta and boyfriend Allan Gomez who were also UPLB students.

Then Calauan Mayor Antonio Sanchez and several of his men were found guilty of raping and murdering Sarmenta and killing her boyfriend. Sanchez and his men are now behind bars and are serviving 7 life sentences each for the crime.

Nemenzo said he was Los Baños chief of police when the Sarmenta-Gomez rape-slays were committed.

Grieving family, outraged community

Grief and anger were all over the faces of relatives of Cebanico.

They were in tears while police described how the suspects committed the act.

"Sinuntok nila [ang biktima] hanggang sa mawalan ng malay, bago ni-rape," said Nemenzo.

The victim's father, Daniel, welcomed the quick arrest of the 2 suspects.

"At least, madadala namin ang aming anak sa huling hantungan na nakamit ang justice," he said.

The UPLB community held an indignation rally on Friday to condemn the killing of Cebanico and called for justice.

Her friends, classmates, and teachers were filled with emotions.

"Ang sakit-sakit po, hanggang ngayon hindi pa rin namin matanggap na wala na siya sa amin. Ang hirap gumising sa umaga na wala na siya," said Cebanico's roommate, Naryne Amansec.

"Inaalagaan namin sila hanggang sila ay maka-graduate, para kaming binawian ng anak, bilang mga teachers," said Vladimir Mariano, director of UPLB's Institute of Computer Science.

Aside from asking for justice for Cebanico, the UPLB community urged authorities to tighten security in and around the campus to prevent a similar incident from happening again. - with reports from Atom Araullo and Jing Castañeda, ABS-CBN News