THE “real reason” Dr. Reynold Rene Rafols was tracked down and killed by an angry Canadian ex-neighbor has to do with children, said one of the doctor’s lawyers, Mat Jo.
Speaking in a memorial service for Rafols on Friday, Jo was emphatic that the general impression that the Jan. 22 shooting was due to a “personal conflict” between the two former neighbors was incorrect.
“That’s not true!” Jo said in his eulogy.
He said Rafols died out of concern for “poor and helpless young children” like the ones their foundation would help assist for medical charity cases.
Jo said “the root cause of the problem started when Dr. Rafols was elected president of the homeowners association of Tuscania Condominium.”
He said John Pope “would bring in young children , mga yagit na bata (street kids) in the middle of the night” in his condominium unit, a strange occurrence noticed by neighbors. Rafols, according to the lawyer, was alarmed and refused to let it continue. He ordered security guards to disallow their entry.
“That was the start of the present problem,” said the lawyer.
“Nanganak na.” (It gave rise to the other cases of malicious mischief, grave threat and illegal gun possession.)
Jo said another lawyer Jubian Achas, who was eventually killed last week with Rafols, was handling several cases against the foreigner when Jo’s help was sought midway.
Jo said he was asked to meet with Pope and his lawyer, and to facilitate the sale of his condominium unit.
Jo said he went to the Philippine Retirement Authority where Pope had initially gotten his special visa to lift the restriction of ownership on his Tuscania condominium unit in barangay Gualadupe “so he can leave the premises.”
Ownership of the condo was one of the basis of his qualification to avail of special privileges of alien residency.
Jo said the doctor asked for his help because his wife Elaine was losing sleep worrying about what the Canadian would do next after their unit was the target of rock throwing and then door knocks in the middle of the night.
When Pope finally moved out to a row house he had built in Siloy Street in barangay Kalunasan, Cebu City, the couple thought the danger had eased.
In May 17, 2011, the retiree was seen entering the Borromeo building in Cebu City where the couple’s clinic was located. Security staff said Pope was armed with a gun. He peered into the office, frightening Elaine, which led to the filing a another complaint of grave threat and illegal possession of firearms.
No actual proof of child abuse was presented to the prosecutor or the court or the Bureau of Immigration, but Pope’s deportation was ordered as an “undesirable alien” in October last year due to his pending cases and for overstaying.
His visa category was adjusted to a two-month tourist visa after he left the PRA’s special retirement program, and Pope didn’t renew his visa.
Asked why the deportation order wasn’t immediately enforced, Jo told Cebu Daily News that as a matter of procedure, a foreigner with pending cases would have to stay to face them in court.
That placed Pope’s case in a sort of limbo, a source of frustration which Jo said indicated there was something “not working” in the system.
Jo said the he advised the doctor, as a matter of legal strategy to consider withdrawing all their complaints to remove the impediments for deportation, but a case was already in court, with the party being the Philippine government and not just a private complainant.
Another close lawyer friend, Tito Pintor, said Pope’s readiness to kill wasn’t just about his frustration with the country’s justice system as he tried to portray in his draft book “Justice Denied.”
“Why was his involved in so many cases? It all started with children,” said Pintor in an interview.
He said the Canadian was incensed when he was barred by condominium guards, on orders of Rafols, not to bring local kids into his unit.
“That was why Pope got so mad,” said Pintor.
Pintor said the PRA should add requirements like a psychiatric examination for screening foreigners who want to reside permanently in the country.
Meanwhile lawyer Froilan Quijano, Pope’s lawyer in two of his string of cases, said he was shocked by the shooting rampage in the Palace of Justice last Jan. 22.
“Atty. Achas was a good friend. Even Dr. Rafols was a nice person. I didn’t expect this to happen. Pope was very respectful but he was unstable. Sometimes he had outbursts but he would calm down later. I didn’t think he was capable of doing this.”
Quijano said Pope didn’t have a lawyer in the last case in Branch 6 of the Municipal Trial Court in Cities (MTCC), where the doctor and his lawyer were present waiting for the hearing to start at 8:30 a.m.
But Pope showed up, walked over to the two men and shot them in the head at close range. He then walked over to another court room in Branch 1, where he met Assistant City Prosecutor Ma. Theresa Casiño and shot her in the back of the neck. She is still in critical condition in the hospital.Eileen Mangubat and Ador Vincent Mayol