By Martin Sadongdong
Jonas Martel Bueno, a 32-year-old construction worker, is now considered as one of the possible suspects in the gruesome killing of a teenage girl in Lapu-Lapu City, Cebu, a spokesperson for the Philippine National Police (PNP) revealed Saturday.
Senior Superintendent Bernard Banac, PNP spokesperson, confirmed that after Bueno’s arrest, his earlier status as a person-of-interest in the death of 16-year-old Christine Silawan has been elevated.
“His arrest is a positive development as he is considered as one of the possible suspects in the on-going investigation of the death of the 16-year-old teenager in Lapu-Lapu City, Cebu,” Banac said in a statement.
Bueno was arrested in Arroyo Compound, Purok Guadalupe, Brgy. Matina Pangi, Davao City on Friday by joint elements of Davao police and National Bureau of Investigation (NBI).
He was apprehended by virtue of an arrest warrant for a separate murder case — that of Trinidad Batucan, a 60-year-old deaf-and-mute farmer, in Danao City, Cebu on January 13, 2019.
In a separate interview with the Manila Bulletin, Banac said the similarity in the “unique” pattern of Silawan and Batucan’s killings proved to be one strong indication of his possible involvement in the teen’s death.
“May mga leads na patuloy na sinusundan ang ating mga imbestigador. Isa na nga rito ay ang similarity doon sa pagpatay sa kanilang dalawa. Doon sa farmer, sinira ang mukha at ganoon din ang ginawa sa biktima na teenager (The investigators are continuously pursuing several leads. One of these is the similarity in both killings. In the farmer’s death, her face was skinned and that’s exactly what was done to the teenager victim as well),” Banac said.
Silawan was found dead in a vacant lot in Sitio Mahayahay, Barangay Bankal, Lapu-Lapu City on March 11. She was found half-naked with the skin on her face removed, thus, exposing her skull. Police added that some of her internal organs were also taken.
Meanwhile, Batucan was found dead in Sitio Agutayan, Lawaan, Danao City. The skin on her face and chest were also peeled off.
Chief Superintendent Marcelo Morales, director of the Davao Police Regional Office (PRO-11), said the suspect’s name also appeared in the cellphone retrieved from a relative of the victim.
“Lumulutang ‘yong kanyang nickname sa conversation with the victim (His nickname appeared in one conversation with the victim),” Morales said.
Bueno denied his participation in the killing of Silawan but admitted to killing Batucan, according to the police.
“Ang inamin niya is his participation sa unang case [Batucan’s death] na meron siyang pinatay (What he admitted is his participation in the first case where he said he killed someone),” he added.
According to the PNP, Bueno and his two brothers, Jovy and Junry, were all accomplices in Batucan’s death.
Jovy and Junry were slain in a police operation in Cebu on January 18, 2019. The two allegedly resisted arrest when cops served an arrest warrant against them. Bueno was not in the area when the operation was conducted.
The Central Visayas Police Regional Office (PRO-7) and Cebu police have yet to respond to queries from this reporter.
From Cebu to Davao
According to Morales, Bueno claimed he has been staying in Davao City for two weeks already. He is accompanied by his wife, two children and his uncle.
Bueno’s wife told the police that they were staying at the house of her cousin in Barangay Matina Pangi.
“Ang sabi ng babae, maghahanap sila ng trabaho kaya pumunta sila ng Davao. Hindi sila nagbabanggit sa pinsan ng kanilang reason bakit umalis sila sa Cebu, ‘yon lang, maghahanap ng trabaho (The wife said they were looking for a job that’s why they went to Davao. They never mentioned to her cousin any reason why they left Cebu apart from finding a job),” Morales explained.
However, investigators have yet to establish the exact date of the suspect’s arrival in Davao City where he eventually found a job as a construction worker in Barangay Matina Pangi several days before his arrest.
Meanwhile, Banac said Bueno must have changed the date of his arrival in Davao City to establish his alibi that he was not in Cebu during the day Silawan was killed.
“Iyan ang alibi ni Bueno na diumano ay two weeks na daw siya sa Davao. Wala pang tukoy na exact date. Patuloy pa na inaalam (It was Bueno’s alibi that he has been in Davao for two weeks already. We really have no exact date. It is still being investigated),” Banac said.
According to Banac, Bueno is expected to be transferred to the custody of the Cebu police the soonest time possible.