MANILA, Philippines—Althea Altamirano only thought that Julie Ann Rodelas would only get a lesson for talking behind her back. Little did she know that the “lesson” meant the death of a girl she considered to be her friend.
“Pumayag lang po ako na turuan lang ng leksyon. Di ko akalain na papatayin (I agreed to just teach her a lesson. I didn’t know she’s going to be killed),” a sobbing Althea, 23, told reporters on Saturday night following her arrest in Pampanga.
The one to “give” the “lesson” was her boyfriend, Fernando Quiambao Jr., 32, who was also taken into custody by the Quezon City Police District’s Criminal Investigation and Detection Unit.
Their arrest came four days after Rodelas, a 20-year-old part-time model, was shot dead and pushed out of a black Mitsubishi Montero on 18th Avenue in Murphy, Cubao on Nov. 6.
The Montero’s license plate TWO 505 was traced to Quiambao’s mother.
Althea, herself a model, said the sports utility vehicle was the same one used when the victim was allegedly abducted near the World Trade Center in Pasay City on Nov. 6 at 12:30 am.
At first, she couldn’t recall the make of the vehicle. But when she asked her boyfriend, Quiambao confirmed that it was indeed the Montero used in the abduction.
Althea claimed she told her boyfriend that Rodelas was spreading rumors about her.
Quiambao then suggested teaching the victim “a lesson” but according to Althea, she never thought that her friend would be killed.
“Sabi nya magaling daw po siya sa ganun, ginagawa daw nya walang bulilyaso dati. Kaya po pumayag ako (He told me he’s good with that, he’s been doing that without misplay so I agreed),” the woman said, referring to her boyfriend.
Rodelas’ mother Luz, who confronted Althea after her arrest, said the woman was allegedly angry that Jaja, her daughter’s nickname, was spreading rumors that Althea had two kids.
“Di naman chismis yun. Totoo naman na may dalawa sya anak eh (It’s not a rumor. It’s true that she had two kids already),” the angry mother said.
Before Rodelas’s abduction, the two girls saw a movie at the SM Mall of Asia and took a cab to the area near the WTC along Diosdado Macapagal Boulevard to meet a friend.
Unknown to the victim, Althea had already texted their whereabouts to her boyfriend, setting the plan in action.
Two men were seen grabbing Rodelas and dragging her to the Montero, leaving Althea shocked and unable to remember even the color of the suspects’ clothes.
“Sa sobrang taranta ko… Gusto ko bumalik gusto ko sya hilahin… Kasalanan ko bakit sya nakuha (Because I panicked, I wanted to go back and pull her out of the vehicle. It’s my fault she was abducted),” she said, before crying loudly.
At first, Althea had no intention of reporting the incident to police—supposedly as instructed by her boyfriend—but responding Pasay City policeman saw her crying on the road.
A Pasay City police blotter entry at 12:40 a.m. showed that Althea reported the alleged abduction to a police precinct near the crime scene.
The woman eventually called up Quiambao to alert him, prompting her boyfriend to also proceed to the police station at around 2 a.m.
Quiambao’s father was also there.
Rodelas was killed in Quezon City at around 5:30 a.m. although her identity was only established a day later when her family came forward to identify the body.
After reporting the incident, Althea and her boyfriend went to Quiambao’s home in Quezon City at around 4 p.m. with her boyfriend’s father to get some clothes.
The couple eventually checked into a motel, after which she met with her and Rodelas’s friends in a Las Piñas City apartelle.
She told them of the alleged abduction and handed them Rodelas’s bag and sandals that Rodelas left behind in the struggle, asking them to return the items to Rodelas’s parents.
Later that day, Quiambao and Althea checked into a Quezon City hotel.
According to Althea, she only learned of Rodelas’s death after her sister texted her about the news on Wednesday.
Shocked of Rodelas’s death
Such was her shock and anguish, she said, that she angrily confronted her boyfriend about it.
“Nung nalaman kong patay na, sabi ko, bakit patay na? Sinigawan nya ako, sabi nya di nya alam (When I learned about her death, I asked my boyfriend why? He shouted at me, saying he didn’t know),” she said in between sobs.
Asked if she knew who abducted Rodelas, Althea said she only knew that her boyfriend had “men” to do the job but did not know them.
That day, Althea went home to her family in Cavite to get clothes and leave some money, after which the couple hid at the Quiambaos’ ancestral home in Apalit, Pampanga.
The woman wanted to go home so badly but her boyfriend forbade her to even answer calls and text messages on her cell phones.
Althea granted an interview with GMA News on Friday during which she reiterated that Rodelas was abducted.
After her arrest, Althea said the initial plan was for her to surface on Monday as supposedly suggested by her boyfriend’s father.
Unfortunately for the couple, they were arrested together in follow-up operations in Pampanga led by CIDU’s Insp. Elmer Monsalve. The Montero was also recovered during the operation.
2 cheeseburger meals
Police were also able to link Quiambao to the Rodelas case based on a video footage from McDonald’s UN Avenue branch, showing Quiambao buying two cheeseburger meals for two at 2:33 a.m. of Nov. 6.
This was based on a McDonald’s receipt recovered from Rodelas, who clutched the plastic bag containing the receipt and the uneaten takeout meals as she reportedly died on the street.
CIDU head Chief Insp. Rodelio Marcelo said police surveilling the Quiambao house in Quezon City saw a black Toyota Innova leave on Saturday afternoon, headed for Pampanga.
Pursuit operations and a three-day stakeout ended in Althea and Quiambao’s arrest at around 6 pm Saturday.
As of press time, police are still preparing murder cases against the couple, who are expected to be subjected to inquest proceedings before the Quezon City prosecutors’ office.
Althea admitted that she feared for her and her family’s safety following the cold-blooded murder of her friend.
But for Rodelas’ mother, she thanked the heavens that justice has finally been dealt for her dead daughter.
Speaking in an angry voice about her encounter with Althea, Luz said: “Ang sabi ko sa kanya, magsisi man sya, di ko sya pwede patawarin sa kabilang buhay man (I told her, even if she repented, I can’t forgive her even in the after life).”
A mother of six who sold homecooked meals for a living in their Las Piñas City home, Luz spoke fondly of her daughter who had high hopes for her future.
Rodelas would take on modelling jobs to help save money for her schooling at the Arellano University, where she is enrolled in hotel and restaurant management. Because of poverty, the victim had to stop schooling three times.
“Di ko sya (Jaja) pinaghuhugas ng pinggan. Tapos babarilin nila ng ganun ganun. Mga hayop sila! (I don’t even make Jaja wash the dishes. Then they would kill her just like that. They are like beasts!)” Luz said.
The mother also downplayed Althea’s claim of an abduction, pointing out that her family had no money to pay any ransom in the first place.
According to Luz, Althea would go to their house in the wee hours for modelling jobs and her daughter would join eagerly as Althea is her idol.
The mother admitted that she sometimes would feel hot-headed whenever she saw her daughter’s friend, not knowing that it was a hint of things to come.
“Yun pa sya talaga magpahamak sa anak ko. Kung naniwala lang anak ko sa akin, di sana sya napahamak ng ganyan (I knew that she is the one who will put my daughter in danger. If only my daughter believed me, this wouldn’t have happened),” Luz added.
For her part, Althea could only offer a belated, tearful apology to her dead friend: “Jaja, sorry… Di ko alam na papatayin ka (Jaja I’m, I didn’t know you’re going to be killed).”