MANILA – More than 10 years after her body was found inside a drum submerged in the waters off a port in Navotas, the family of Ruby Rose Barrameda is crying for justice as a Malabon court dismissed both the parricide case against her husband and the murder case against her father-in-law and 2 other accused.
In an order dated July 10, 2019, Malabon Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 170 Acting Presiding Judge Edwin Larida, Jr. dismissed the murder case against Barrameda’s in-law, lawyer Manuel Jimenez, Jr., Lennard “Spyke” Descalso and Norberto Ponce after prosecutors failed to establish their guilt beyond reasonable doubt.
The same court also dismissed the parricide case against Barrameda’s estranged husband, Manuel Jimenez III, for lack of probable cause.
Barrameda, the sister of actress and former beauty queen Rochelle Barrameda, went missing on March 14, 2007 after she visited her children at the house of the Jimenezes.
Her body was only recovered in June 2009 after accused-turned-witness Manuel Montero surfaced and identified the area where he supposedly dumped the body of Barrameda.
Authorities recovered a steel casing filled with cement with Barrameda’s body inside a steel drum. She was identified using her dental records.
Montero accused Barrameda’s husband Manuel III, her father-in-law Manuel Jr., her uncle-in-law Lope Jimenez, driver Eric Fernandez, security officer Descalso and operations man Ponce, of carrying out the murder.
Montero claimed that Barrameda was abducted from the Jimenez's residence, strangled to death by Descalso at a company compound, her body placed inside a steel drum later filled with cement.
The steel drum was placed inside a steel casing, also filled with cement, and dumped into the sea of Navotas.
But in February 2013, Montero recanted his testimony and in March 2013, he disappeared while in police custody.
Because Montero was not able to finish his testimony and was not cross-examined, the Malabon court allowed Manuel Jr., Descalso and Ponce to post bail, while it ultimately disregarded Montero’s testimony.
Without Montero’s testimony, the Malabon court found there was no sufficient evidence to convict the 3 for murder.
“[T]he discovery of the body of a deceased only proves that a crime has been committed but it does [not] include the identities of the persons who committed it or its actual commission by someone,” the court said in its July 10 order.
“Aside the fact that the evidence of ‘corpus delicti’ is independent from the two (2) extra-judicial confessions made by accused Montero, which were though denied admission by the Court as per Order dated October 18, 2017, there is dearth of evidence on record that would associate the accused-movants to the criminal agency responsible to the crime committed,” it added.
The Malabon court also relied on this “dearth of evidence” in dismissing the parricide case against Manuel III, noting that the testimonies of the police officers did not mention him and neither was he shown to have participated directly or indirectly or acted in conspiracy with others in effecting the killing.
“In this case: the evidence on record clearly fails to establish probable cause with respect to the accused-movant,” the court said in its August 15 order.
Two other accused, Lope Jimenez and Eric Fernandez, remain at large and will continue to face the murder charge.
BARRAMEDA FAMILY’S REACTION
But Barrameda’s family is contesting the dismissal of the parricide case, accusing the judge of “unmistakable bias in favor of the accused.” They asked for his inhibition.
The family pointed out that the Justice Department’s finding of probable cause to file parricide charge against Manuel III had been affirmed by the Office of the President, the Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court.
“It was dismissed because it lacked probable cause, grossly disregarding in the process the findings of the 4 government agencies. Kaya po merong (That’s why there’s) grave abuse of discretion,” the family’s lawyer Al Lazaro said in a press conference organized by the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption in Manila on Monday.
“Feeling ng pamilya, may nagaganap na hindi maganda dito,” Rochelle added.
(The family feels something wrong is happening here.)
Rochelle pointed out that Judge Larida had only been recently assigned as acting presiding judge but has decided to promptly dismiss the cases against the Jimenezes and other accused.
The family also blamed the Philippine National Police (PNP) National Capital Regional Police Office (NCRPO) for allowing Montero to escape from their custody and the Department of Justice prosecutors for failing to guide them that they could have filed a motion for reconsideration in the murder case.
Rochelle said a Taguig prosecutor told them nothing else could be done because they could no longer produce additional evidence.
She also said they had to ask the DOJ to replace the first panel of prosecutors handling the case after 3 of the accused were allowed to post bail.
BARRAMEDA FAMILY’S APPEAL
Despite Montero’s disappearance from police custody, Barrameda’s father, Robert, is still hopeful that Montero would come around.
“Kung ikaw ay buhay pa, di namin alam kung nakatakas o pinatakas..sana manumbalik uli sa’yo na ikaw makonsensya,” he said.
(If you are still alive, we are not sure if you escaped or were allowed to escape…We hope that your conscience will convince you to do the right thing.)
Barrameda’s mother, Asuncion, said that 12 years after her daughter went missing, she still could not forget what happened to her.
“Durog na durog po puso ko. Naaawa ako sa anak ko,” she said.
(My heart is badly broken. I pity my daughter.)
All she’s asking for now is a chance to see her late daughter’s children.
“Sana makarating sa Pangulo, sa DSWD para makita namin ang mga bata,” she said.
(We hope this reaches the President and the DSWD so we can see the children.)