Raps filed vs 4 suspects in female architect’s rape-slay in Davao City; witnesses come forward
DAVAO CITY–Four persons are facing charges for alleged links to the rape-slay of a female architect in the Calinan district here last month.
Col. Alberto Lupaz, Davao City Police Office chief, said rape with homicide charges were filed last Monday against Dennis Roy Panzan, Kenth Lawrence Espinosa, Renato Bayansao and one still unidentified suspect for the death of 28-year-old Vlanche Marie Bragas, whose body was found under dried banana fronds in a ditch at a banana plantation in Dacudao village, Calinan district on May 17.
Lupaz said two witnesses have come forward and executed affidavits implicating the four accused in the brutal crime.
Maj. Neil Vistar, Calinan police station commander, said a male witness saw three people inside the yellow ombak (a type of pedicab) as it passed by near him in Crossing Fausta, Población Calinan past 10:30 p.m. on May 16.
One of them was the victim, and another passenger, seated on the rear portion of the vehicle, turned out to be Espinosa, Vistar said during a presentation of a diagram link.
Vistar said the witness allegedly caught a glimpse of a bearded person driving the tricycle as the vehicle came by her, who was later identified as Bayansao.
Panzan and an unidentified companion allegedly punched Bragas shortly after she alighted from the pedicab about 50 meters from her residence at Megaville Street, Vistar said, quoting a female witness who reportedly saw the assault.
The two men then moved the unconscious victim back onto the pedicab and sped off to Dacudao, some 3 kilometers away, where the victim’s body was found less than 12 hours later.
Vistar said Panzan, 23, was a neighbor of the victim.
Bragas’ case has shocked this city of 1.6 million, with former President Rodrigo Duterte calling on television for the resignation of city police officials if they could not solve the murder of the young architect and other crimes.
Duterte’s eldest son Paolo, who represented the city’s 1st district in Congress, has offered a P1 million reward for the arrest of Bragas’ rapist-killers.
Bayansao is now under the custody of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) following his arrest at his home in Calinan on May 27 for illegal drugs and possession of a caliber .38 revolver, said lawyer Arcelito Albao, National Bureau of Investigation Southeastern Mindanao Regional Office (NBI-SEMRO) chief.
Albao had maintained the joint PDEA-NBI operation against Bayansao was legitimate and that they had witnesses who linked him to the Bragas case.
Meanwhile, an investigation was now underway to identify those behind the abduction of Panzan and Espinosa, Lupaz said.
Panzan, 23, a resident of Calinan, was snatched by unidentified men on May 26. Despite being handcuffed, his face wrapped in plastic tape and apparently tortured, he escaped from his captors. He sought assistance from barangay officials in Matina Pangi, who brought him to the police.
While being interviewed, authorities said that Panzan fell unconscious and died at a local hospital.
The 18-year-old Espinosa was also abducted by unidentified suspects in an SUV a day after Panzan went missing at Purok 1, Lacson, Calinan. He has been unaccounted for since.
Police said that, according to his family, Espinosa had asked permission to meet his new friend, whom he was messaging when he went missing.
That friend was Panzan.
The families of the accused maintained their kin were innocent and were at home when the crime against Bragas was committed.