The last time he spoke with the family of the slain Ruby Rose Barrameda, the supposed star witness in the gruesome murder case claimed that his life was in danger. This was despite his being in a safe house within a police camp under the justice department’s Witness Protection Program (WPP).
Two weeks later, Manuel Montero wrote the court to recant his statements and reportedly left the WPP, prompting a member of the Barrameda family to ask: “How much? How much did it take to buy the principles you used to have?”
In a press conference on Thursday, the sixth anniversary of Ruby Rose’s death, the victim’s sister Rochelle Barrameda aired suspicions that the man who could help the family obtain justice had backtracked because he was paid, if not threatened with harm.
“I’ve read the statement (of his recantation). He now claims he does not to know anything. But why was he so detailed back then?” she said, adding:
“When we were opening the steel drum (containing Ruby Rose’s body), he was even texting me: “Don’t break it open there, you might hit Ruby Rose’s head. Not there, you might hit her back.’ He knew the exact position of her body inside the drum,” Rochelle said.
Later in an Inquirer interview, Rochelle said the last time she saw Montero was two weeks ago at his safe house since 2010, the office of the Intelligence and Operations Unit of the National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) in Camp Bagong Diwa, Taguig City.
“We talked about him wanting to transfer to another safe house,” she recalled. “He said ‘there were people who have been hovering around. If I am not transferred soon, I will die here.’”
In 2009, two years after Ruby Rose went missing, Montero surrendered to authorities and pointed them to the location of the sealed drum bearing her remains in the waters off Navotas City.
Montero also issued affidavits saying he and three other men were given orders to kill Ruby Rose by her own father-in-law Manuel Jimenez Jr. and his brother Lope Jimenez, who were then looking out for the interest of the victim’s husband Manuel Jimenez III. Ruby Rose and Jimenez III were then locked in a child custody battle.
In a statement, Lope Jimenez’s lawyer, Ferdinand Topacio, hit back at Rochelle for insinuating that Montero had been bribed.
“We would like to challenge [the Barramedas’] holier-than-thou attitude by asking them [to] put up or shut up. If you cannot prove what you are saying, then in the name of all that is holy, please say nothing at all,” Topacio said.
“[Montero], in withdrawing his previous statements, has said that he was bothered by his conscience. That is his privilege, nay, his right. The Barramedas cynically impute baser motives.
That is also their right but their misfortune as well if they cannot see beyond the blinders of their own hate and refuse to believe that other people can actually feel remorse,” the lawyer added.
Rochelle and members of Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption marked the 6th anniversary of Ruby Rose’s death with a Mass at the University of Perpetual Help in Las Piñas City, where Ruby Rose finished Mass Communications in 1997. Students, teachers and university officials also packed the venue.
A father’s plea
The victim’s father Robert called out to Montero: “Wherever you are, Manny Montero, this is your ‘tatay’ (father) who you always used to embrace. You promised us you would not leave us until the end.”
“If you are still alive, know that we are still here believing the commitment you made to us. We will continue to fight,” Robert said.
According to Rochelle, her family learned that Montero left the NCRPO’s protective custody late last week, or days before Montero sent a notice of withdrawal to the court on Tuesday.
Rochelle challenged Montero to “come out and prove that the Jimenezes really have nothing to do with this… for everyone’s peace of mind.”
She expressed confidence that the case will still be resolved in her family’s favor. “If our opponents think the fight is over, they’re wrong. Don’t celebrate yet because we will prove that even without Montero our evidence is strong. We will send to jail whoever killed my sister,” she said.
Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the NCRPO explained that since Montero was not a detainee, he could stay in or leave the Intelligence Operations Unit office as he pleases.
‘’We are waiting for orders from the DOJ (Department of Justice),” Chief Insp. Kimberly Molitas said when asked if efforts were being made to look for Montero.