MANILA, Philippines?Police arrested ABS-CBN news anchor and former Congressman Ted Failon at 12 midnight allegedly for tampering with evidence and obstruction of justice for failure to immediately report the shooting of his wife.
Failon was brought to Camp Karingal in Quezon City by the arresting team led by Supt. Gerardo Ratuita, deputy chief of the Quezon City Criminal Investigation and Detection Unit. The popular news anchor was accompanied by his eldest daughter, Kaye, and his lawyers.
Senior Supt. Franklin Moises Mabanag said that Failon was arrested for tampering with evidence and obstruction of justice.
Failon had rushed his wife to the New Era General Hospital, where she was fighting for her life with a gunshot wound in the head at press time.
The circumstances of the shooting of his wife, Trinidad Arteche Etong, 45, remained unclear. She was still in critical condition, radio reports said.
Mabanag said it had not been established if Failon (born Mario Teodoro Failon Etong) was involved but that foul play was not being ruled out.
?We found inconsistencies in his statement and the statement of the maid,? said Mabanag, chief of the QC CIDU. Failon ordered that the bathroom where his bloodied wife was found be cleaned, he said.
The maid and the houseboy who did the cleaning were arrested earlier Wednesday night, but police were yet to take Failon into custody in his house, where Vice President Noli de Castro, a friend and former broadcast colleague, and lawyers were keeping him company.
A police source said a paraffin test showed that Failon was negative for powder burns.
In an interview over ABS-CBN late Wednesday night, Failon said his wife had left him a letter, saying she was sorry but gave no details.
?It?s about family finances,? he said, recounting that he attempted to sort out this problem with her the previous night. ?I told her we came from nothing, why should that be a problem?? Failon said in Filipino, his voice breaking.
?Everyone inside the house, including Ted Failon, is a suspect,? Mabanag said, referring to the broadcaster?s household on Gen. Aquino Street in the Tierra Pura subdivision in Quezon City.
In his statement sent earlier by his home network ABS-CBN Broadcasting Corp., Failon said in Filipino that he did not complete his program over dzMM radio Wednesday morning after speaking with his wife on the phone.
?I immediately went home and saw that the bathroom door was locked. I had the door opened and I found my wife bloodied, so I rushed her to the hospital,? he said.
But in its early evening newscast Wednesday, ABS-CBN reported two different versions of the incident.
According to one version, which quoted an official of the Quezon City police, Failon shot his wife in the heat of a quarrel in their car.
According to the other version, Failon admitted having had a spat with his wife, and that when he came home after his radio program Wednesday he found her bloodied in their bathroom.
The conflicting reports were aired shortly before ABS-CBN sent Failon?s statement to media offices.
?It?s a tragedy?
Police have found a purported suicide note, in which Trinidad Etong allegedly sought forgiveness.
The handgun, a Walther PPK .380, was found in the bathroom, which, according to Mabanag, had been cleaned.
Mabanag said Failon had been administered a paraffin test, and that the broadcaster had admitted quarreling with his wife on Tuesday night.
Failon was overheard saying that ?it?s a tragedy,? and that ?the media should let it be? because ?it?s a private matter.?
Indeed, ABS-CBN corporate communications head Bong Osorio said in a statement: ?We appeal to everyone to please respect the privacy of Ted Failon and his family. His wife is fighting for her life.?
Mabanag said that despite the suicide note, police were not considering the shooting a suicide attempt because of the position of the gun and the gunshot wound.
?It appears to be a clear shot?through and through ang tama,? said a resident physician at the New Era General Hospital. ?The entry point is the left side of the temporal area...?
Mabanag said Failon had requested the police not to take him to the police station and to continue the investigation at his house.
Vice President Noli de Castro, a colleague and close friend of Failon?s, and businessman Delfin Lee arrived at about 6:30 p.m. at the broadcaster?s house upon his request.
De Castro is also a resident of the Tierra Pura subdivision.
In an interview on the phone, De Castro said he went to see Failon because he was worried about his friend and the latter?s family.
?I was able to speak with him, but I will not speak for him. It?s not what many think. But the police are now talking with him,? De Castro said in a mix of Filipino and English.
According to the Vice President, his immediate concern is the monitoring of Failon?s condition.
?As a friend, I am praying that Trina?s life will be saved, and that the whole family will get through this,? De Castro said.
He begged off from commenting further, saying: ?The police have started their investigation. Let us allow them to do their work.?
Mabanag said initial investigation showed that Trinidad Etong was taken to the hospital by her sister Pamela, the family driver identified only as Glen, and another man believed to be Failon.
A witness said Failon was crying when he brought his wife to the hospital?s emergency room.
Another witness told the Philippine Daily Inquirer (parent company of INQUIRER.net) that he saw Failon leaving the ER in a bloody polo shirt and wearing a surgical mask, apparently to avoid identification by policemen and reporters waiting outside, and boarding a blue Pajero at around 1 p.m.
A gardener of Failon?s neighbor told the Inquirer that before noon, he saw the broadcaster in a bloody shirt about to board the Pajero in his garage with another woman who was weeping. But he did not see Failon?s wife.
The gardener also said he did not hear gunshots coming from Failon?s house with glass windows.
Police investigators were only able to interview witnesses in the hospital and to get Failon?s address at around 4 p.m., or more than five hours later, because hospital personnel did not immediately allow interviews with the witnesses.
Hospital personnel also barred reporters from entering the premises and refused to issue a statement.
Sources said ABS-CBN had ordered a news blackout for several hours upon Failon?s request.
Bonifacio Geroche, head of the Tierra Pura security, said they were not informed about the shooting and only found out about it when the police arrived at around 4 p.m.
Police said that when they got to the Failon house, they found that the Mitsubishi Pajero had been washed.
This was how a resident physician described the turn of events:
Upon arrival and after begging doctors and nurses to immediately attend to his wife, Failon asked everyone in the ER not to allow reporters or police personnel to enter the hospital premises: ?No media, no police, please, nakikiusap ako.?
While attending to the patient, the ER staff asked what were considered standard questions, but Failon refused to answer even the most basic: What happened? How did the patient get the gunshot wound?
He remained silent, was in tears and visibly very worried.
The only information he gave the hospital, verbally and in writing on the official hospital form for patients, was the patient?s name, Trinidad Etong, and her age, 45.
He managed to tearfully tell the ER staff that the patient was his wife and a nurse: ?Asawa daw niya, nurse daw, iyak nang iyak.?
But the doctors, nurses and staff of the ER did not immediately recognize that the man who had brought the patient was Failon.
Some of the guards remarked, ?Si Ted Failon yun, ah,? but they were not sure because the man wore a baseball cap and his eyes were barely visible, according to the hospital staff.
They were only able to ascertain that the man was indeed the broadcaster when the hospital operator received a phone call from someone from ABS-CBN looking for Ted Failon. When the operator asked the man in the baseball cap if he would take the call, he said no, and repeated his appeal to the hospital staff: ?No media, no police, please, please,? the resident physician said.
When more calls came, and upon learning that reporters were inquiring about him, Failon rose and left without saying a word, but still in tears, the physician said.
The hospital administrator, Dr. Salvador Corpuz, said the management did not exactly heed Failon?s request to prevent the media and the police from entering the premises.
?Our immediate concern was to attend to the patient,? Corpuz said, adding that they, too, were surprised to see Failon in a distraught state. With reports from Abigail Kwok, Thea Alberto and Maila Ager, INQUIRER.net