Wife says Cavite gunman not drug trafficker
CITY OF SAN FERNANDO—Ronald Bae, who killed eight people and wounded 12 others in a drug-fueled shooting rampage in Kawit town in Cavite province on Friday, earned his keep from cockfighting and breeding game cocks and not from dealing in illegal drugs, his wife said on Sunday.
While she admitted that her husband used drugs, Elena Bae dismissed reports that Bae traded in “shabu,” or methamphetamine hydrochloride.
“That is false,” Elena, a native of Sta. Cruz in Lubao, Pampanga, said in a telephone interview.
Bae prowled the streets and market in Barangay (village) Tabon I in Kawit and shot anyone in sight with a .45 cal. pistol then shot it out with responding policemen until he was shot dead.
On reports that her husband was a drug user, Elena said he had used drugs two weeks before he died. She said she did not know when her husband started using drugs.
But asked if she knew why her husband went on a rampage, she said, “It’s due to [his] vice.”
In a talk with the Philippine Daily Inquirer on Saturday in Imus town in Cavite, where her husband’s body was taken, Elena said Bae was a good man and father until “he started using drugs recently.”
On Dec. 30, she said, Bae started to act strangely.
“He would talk to himself. Sometimes his eyes would roll upward,” she said.
She added that once she saw Bae talking to a wall in their house in Guagua town, Pampanga.
“He was saying something. ‘I’m the devil,’ he said, and that he was seeing shadows, somebody was peering at him,” Elena said.
Bae and Elena were married five years ago, although they had been living together for 13 years. They have five children, the eldest of whom is 12 years old.
Bae had two other children from a previous marriage.
Elena said she could not believe what happened to her husband. They had fights, she said, and sometimes he hit her. But he never pointed a gun at her.
“They said it was as if he had been possessed, as if he became a demon,” Elena said, referring to people’s accounts of Bae’s deadly rampage.
She said she and her husband had a fight on Dec. 30. He appeared to have been using drugs and his companion, his house caretaker John Paul Lopez also appeared to have taken drugs.
“He was jealous of John Paul. I said, ‘Oh, no, dad,’” Elena said.
Bae started to hit her in the head, she said. When it looked like Bae was going to draw his gun, she collected the children and barricaded themselves in a room and stayed there until Bae and Lopez left.
In the funeral parlor where Bae’s body lay, Elena apologized to the families of the people he had killed. “I apologize for what my husband did. I hope they are not angry with me,” she said.
In her interview with the Inquirer on Saturday, Elena denied that Bae snapped because she had decided to leave him.
“It was he who left the house. In fact, I looked for him to put him in rehabilitation. But his friends won’t tell me where he was,” she said.
Elena said Bae bred fighting cocks on a farm in Noveleta town, Cavite.
“He stopped this business when he ran for barangay captain [in Tabon I in 2010] but lost,” she said.
She said they built a house on a 500-square-meter property in Guagua last year.
The house, towering over ricefields owned by neighbors, remains unpainted. It has a rooftop where people saw Bae frequently binge drinking with friends.
He went on a deadly rampage the next morning, with Lopez seen loading his pistol for him.
Relatives surrendered Lopez to police in Imus late Friday. He is facing multiple-murder charges for helping Bae shoot people by reloading his gun.
Sen. Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. on Sunday blamed the carnage in Kawit on the regional police commander’s “unilateral” decision to reorganize the Cavite police.
Revilla, who is from Cavite, said the “arbitrary” reorganization ordered by Chief Supt. James Melad, police director for the Calabarzon (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Aurora, Quezon) region, led to the “relief and replacement” of the provincial police director and all chiefs of police in the province.
Melad’s order, Revilla said, made it difficult for new cops assigned to the area to respond quickly and subdue Bae.
Bae, a former member of the Barangay Tabon I council in Kawit, was believed to be high on a cocktail of drugs and liquor when he rampaged through his neighborhood on Friday morning. He had shot dead eight people, including two children, and wounded 12 others when police arrived and killed him in an exchange of gunfire.
“The new officers Melad assigned to the province knew nothing and were unfamiliar with places there. That’s obvious in their response to the emergency,” Revilla said in a statement written.
Revilla noted reports that responding police officers took between 30 minutes to an hour to get to Barangay Talon I after frantic calls about Bae’s shooting spree.
He said witnesses “also noted the incompetence of the responders, saying that after arriving late on the scene, it was apparent they had no training as they all appeared to be confused.”
“There was no ground commander, there was no control of the area, and no evacuation area was established for the victims and those wounded,” Revilla said.
Earlier reports said Melad relieved Chief Insp. Joel Saliba and his deputy, Insp. Henry Salazar, for the delayed police response.
But Revilla said Melad himself was accountable for what happened in Tabon.
“After the senseless deaths … caused by his ineptitude, Melad is stepping into the scene to wash his hands,” Revilla said. “He has to take responsibility for what he has done. He has blood on his hands.”
Melad said the reorganization was part of preparations for May’s midterm elections. The Philippine National Police leadership ordered the reorganization to ensure peaceful and orderly elections, the first under President Aquino’s administration.
The provincial police chief, Senior Supt. Alexander Rafael, defended the police action amid criticism of his men’s slow response.
“We could not have controlled whatever it was going on in his head,” Rafael said, referring to Bae. “Even if it was the former provincial director or anybody in my position, it’s out of anyone’s control.”
Rafael was reacting to criticism from Cavite Gov. Juanito Victor Remulla, who had said the carnage could have been prevented had the police responded to reports that Bae had been indiscriminately firing his gun days earlier.
But Rafael, who took over as provincial police commander last November, said there were no such reports, and that the police was “doing everything” to curtail drug use and the proliferation of firearms in Cavite.
“The governor was telling this morning that the area wasn’t cordoned off, but maybe he arrived at the scene the [forensic investigation] was done,” Rafael said.
“We are also not just talking about a single crime scene here,” he added.
“And wasn’t the fact that our police were able to neutralize the suspect good [enough]?” Rafael said, refusing to admit lapses in the police response.
Bae’s car found
Meanwhile, the car that Bae and Lopez used to drive to Cavite from Guagua in Pampanga was recovered on Sunday morning in Silang, also in Cavite.
Senior Supt. Dionisio Borromeo, deputy provincial police director for administration, said the car, a blue 1998 model Mitsubishi Lancer with Plate No. WFX-975, was important to the investigation.
“We had been looking for this car because there was a car key recovered from Bae’s clothes but there was no vehicle in the crime scene,” Borromeo said.
The car was found abandoned across from a shopping center in Barangay Tabuan I in Silang after town police received reports from residents about the vehicle.
The car was locked. Its rear windshield was smashed. With reports from Cathy C. Yamsuan in Manila and Maricar Cinco, Inquirer Southern Luzon