SOCO: Citizens pave way for arrest of murder suspects

Posted at 01/29/2014 5:53 PM

Ronald "Rambo" Gracia hid from the law for more than two years after he was charged with murder and frustrated murder in 2011. His victims were Jomar Mendoza and his brother, Jonathan.

The crime happened on May 20, 2011. Jomar and Jonathan were attending a dance in one of the villages in Navotas City. At around 1:00 a.m., a fight broke between Jonathan and Rambo. Rumor had it that Rambo had been having an affair with Jonathan's live-in partner, Rose. The latter eventually confirmed the rumors.

Rose even witnessed Jomar and Jonathan being beaten up.

"Andun lang ako nakaupo nung time na 'yun,” she said. "Gabi na 'yun, hinarang sila nung lalaki ko saka nung kasama niyang kainuman dun sa lamesa."

In the middle of the riot, Rambo allegedly stabbed Jonathan. Jonathan was able to escape and go to the Tondo Medical Center. His wound was treated and he survived.

Unfortunately, his brother Jomar was not as lucky.

Jomar was also allegedly stabbed by Rambo and died on the spot.

The victim. 17-year-old Jomar Mendoza was allegedly stabbed by Ronald "Rambo" Gracia and died on the spot on May 20, 2011.

Unfortunately, the two suspects, Rambo and his companion, Joseph "Joar" Flores, went into hiding after that night.

Then on March 1, 2013, with a tip from an informant, the authorities arrested Joar.

The hunt for Rambo

Rambo, however, remained at large.

"Pinapanalangin ko na mahuli 'yung mismong pumatay sa kanya, lahat ng mga kasabwat," Lydia said.

"Gusto kong makamit ang hustisya [para sa] kapatid ko,” Jonathan says. "Sa ganung paraan, makabawi ako sa kanya, sa lahat ng nagawa kong mali sa kanya."

ABS-CBN SOCO first aired Jomar's story on March 1, 2013. Months passed and the authorities did not receive any leads to Rambo's location. On December 21, the Mendoza family again pleaded for justice through the program.

"Kahit papano, sinisikap po naming makabangon para sa mga anak ko pang natitira," Jomar's mother, Lydia said. "Pinagpasa-Diyos ko na 'yun kung mahuhuli 'yung talagang pumatay sa anak ko."

On that same day, Police Inspector Gilberto Alcovindas of Masbate was watching the show.

"Napanood ko 'yung S.O.C.O. tapos nakita ko ngayon si Ronald Gracio," P/Insp. Alcovindas said. "Eh ang mga Gracio kasi mga native ng Aroroy, Masbate 'yan eh. Ang ginawa ko, nagpapunta ako ng isang asset doon sa isang lugar ng mga Gracio at tingnan kako kung merong Ronald Gracio doon."

The authorities eventually located Ronald "Rambo" Gracio who was hiding in Barangay Pinamarbuhan, Mobo, Masbate.

And on December 23, he was arrested and was later on transferred under the custody of the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology in Navotas City.

The suspect. Ronald "Rambo" Gracio was arrested on December 23, 2013 in the province of Masbate.

"May hustisya pala," Jomar's mother, Lydia, said. "Salamat sa lahat ng tumulong at sa SOCO na hindi binitawan ang kaso namin."

Justice for Keith Ballesteros

ABS-CBN S.O.C.O first aired the story of Keith Ballesteros on August 3, 2013.

Keith was a nursing student in Angeles City, Pampanga. At that time, she was sharing an apartment with her cousin, Mary Luz Flores.

According to Mary Luz, on September 3, 2009, she went home to their apartment and was surprised to find that it was padlocked from the outside. But she was even more shocked when she into the bathroom and found Keith, her head inside the pail and her lifeless body covered with blood.

Justice for Keith Ballesteros. Keith Ballesteros was found dead inside her apartment in Angeles City on September 3, 2009.

"Parang wala na silang isip at puso para magawa pa 'yung bagay na 'yun," Mary Luz said. "Kasi bakit kailangan pa po nilang pumatay."

The crime scene.

Based on post-mortem examination, while Keith sustained stab wounds, the cause of death was drowning. The doctor also saw no signs that the victim was raped.

However, the authorities believed that this was the initial motive of the suspects.

"Kasi 'yung palda niya ay nakataas nang kaunti tapos medyo kita pa 'yung underwear niya," PO1 Jeffrey Reyes, Investigator of the Police Station 6 in Angeles City said.

At that time, the authorities had no suspects. It was only after a year that one Edward Macatangay surfaced and confessed everything he knew about the crime.

In his sworn statement, Edward said he was with two other men—a one Michael Laxa and an Anthony Austria.

According to him, Anthony was Keith's boyfriend and was allegedly the only one who entered the apartment. Edward also claimed that he and Michael were waiting by the sari-sari store when Anthony suddenly came out, rode a motorcycle and drove away.

The authorities doubted Edward’s statement because it contradicted the circumstances at the crime scene. Moreover, after giving his statement, Edward fled and hid from the authorities.

Because of this, Edward Macatangay became the primary suspect for the murder of Keith Ballesteros.

Concerned neighbour

For four years, Edward was a fugitive.

On December 28, ABS-CBN S.O.C.O. aired Keith's story for the second time.

"Malaking tulong nung naipalabas ito dun sa programa," said P/Sr. Supt. Eden Ugale, City Director of the PNP-Angeles City. "Muling nabuhay 'yung interes. Pumasok 'yung mga information as to sa whereabouts ng suspect."

Later on, a witness surfaced to reveal what she knew about the suspect. According to "Angela", she was watching S.O.C.O. when she realized that one of the "Wanted" suspects, Edward Macatangay, bore a striking resemblance to their neighbor.

She didn't know his name but he had been renting the apartment across their home for six months already.

In an interview with Gus Ablegas, "Angela" said she was afraid at that time but knew she had to do the right thing.

"Natakot ako pero pinanindigan ko na," she said. "Kung ang takot na 'yun ang paraan para maging matapang ako, bakit hindi 'di ba. Parang may nag-push sa akin na sige, ituloy mo na."

"Angela" reported this to the police. And on the night of December 28, Edward Macatangay was arrested.

Suspect in denial

At the precinct, the suspect denied that Edward Macatangay was his name. He said that his real name was Gilbert Marilao.

Despite this, he admitted giving a statement to the Angeles City Police in 2010. But he claimed that all of those were made up and that he had no connection whatsoever with the other suspects, Anthony Austria and Michael Laxa.

He also pleaded for the two to come forward.

"Pare, kung kayo naman ang gumawa ng kasalanan na 'to, siguro umamin na kayo o sumuko na kayo," Edward said. "Maliit lang ang mundo, sumuko na lang kayo. May konsensya din naman kayo eh."

Despite his denial, Gilbert Marilao a.k.a. Edward Macatangay is still facing murder charges.

Suspect, arrested. Gilbert Marilao a.k.a. Edward Macatangay was arrested on December 28, 2013 for the murder of Keith Ballesteros.

The Ballesteros family, meanwhile, knows that the road to justice is still long but is grateful that one of the suspects is finally in custody.

"Nagpapasalamat ako sa mga tumulong, lalo na ito nung ma-apprehend [si Edward]," Keith’s father, Laureto, said. "Nagpapasalamat ako na nakuha siya."