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Missing girl found dead in Los Baños

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CAMP PACIANO RIZAL, Laguna-An 11-year-old girl was found dead in the university town of Los Bańos in Laguna, more than two weeks after her family put out her missing posters around the town.

The decomposing body of a young girl was found by policemen in an undeveloped portion of Villa Carangal Subdivision in Barangay (village) Putho Tuntungin past 5 p.m. on Thursday and was identified hours later as that of Marry Grace Esguerra, a Grade 3 public school pupil, according to her sister Monica.

In a phone interview early Friday, Monica, 21, said she last saw Mary Grace around 11 p.m. on March 1 when she sent her off to ride home a jeepney.

Monica said Mary Grace, the sixth in the brood of 12, sold peanuts at nighttime while she worked as a cashier in a bar at the LB (Los Bańos) Square, a popular hang-out place just outside the University of the Philippines Los Bańos (UPLB). Their father earned by selling halo-halo near the campus, while their mother stayed at home.

She said Mary Grace was used to going home alone by taking a jeep and a rickshaw to reach their house at the Gawad Kalinga housing project site in Barangay Putho Tuntungin.

Monica said a pedicab (cycle rickshaw) driver came forward to the police on Thursday and reported that he found a child’s body. At the police station, the driver gave a statement that he also dropped off Mary Grace near their house on March 1 but said he saw her hop on a motorcycle with a man, instead of going home.

Monica, however, found the driver’s story incredible. “The one who’s claiming he brought my sister home was the same person who discovered her body,” she said.

She said the driver was held by the police for questioning. The driver’s name, however, was not immediately available.

Mary Grace’s death quickly reminded the university community of the past killings.

“(Mary Grace’s death happened almost at) the same time of the year…Despite the “heightened” “security,” why does it feel like nothing has changed?” wrote student and filmmaker Matt Baguinon on Facebook.

Baguinon late last year made a short film about Rochel Geronda, a high schoo student who was raped and killed in February 2012, just days before UPLB student Ray Bernard Peñaranda was killed by robbers. A few months earlier, UPLB student Given Grace Cebanico was raped and killed in October 2011.

Women’s group Gabriela Youth-UPLB, which circulated public announcements on Facebook upon learning about the missing child, also condemned the new case of killing.

“It seemed the tighter security (provided by the local authorities) vanished just as the issues died down,” said its externals committee head, Trixia Leigh Pacris, by phone.

There was also a supposed 10 p.m. curfew for minors in Los Bańos.

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Tags: Children , Crime , Killing , Los Baños , missing , missing girl , Philippines - Regions

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