Muay Thai. A form of martial arts from Thailand that develops the speed, strength, agility and self-defense skills of a player.
For years, Roberto Valdez was a big name and a respected figure in the world of Muay Thai in the country. He was the founder of the Muay Thai Association of the Philippines. His constituents had nothing but praises for him.
“Magaling talaga siya,” Billy Alumno, one of the Muay Thai coaches, says. “Sinisigurado niya na sa mga gagawin namin, magbe-benefit kami. Gusto niya mag-grow kami as a player, as a coach.”
And when Roberto got married and had children, he passed on his knowledge and skills. “Bata pa lang ‘yong mga anak namin, ine-expose na niya sa sports,” Roberto’s wife, Grace, recalls. “Gusto ni Robert na maging physically fit ‘yong mga anak niya and at the same time, maprotektahan nila ‘yong sarili nila lalo na may anak kaming dalawang babae.”
But despite Roberto’s exemplary skill in martial arts, it wasn’t enough to defend himself from an untimely demise.
On February 21, 2009, Roberto was killed.
A wife’s nightmare
|The world of Muay Thai. The founder of the Muay Thai Association of
the Philippines, Roberto Valdez was a respected figure in the arena.
Grace Valdez recalls the day her nightmare began. “On the way [ako] sa bahay nang tumawag sa’kin si Andy Galvez, isa sa mga coaches namin,” she says. “Sabi niya sa’kin, Ma’am, ‘wag ka mabibigla, may nangyari kay Sir, nasa ospital’. Sabi ko, ‘Ano ba talaga, deretsuhin mo na ‘ko ano bang nangyari?’ Sabi niya, nabaril.”
Fear gripped Grace. She raced to the hospital as fast a she could, hoping against hope that her husband was still alive. “Sabi ko sana may milagrong mangyari, makaligtas o maabutan ko man lang na buhay, makausap ko,” she says.
But at that moment, the doctors have already declared Roberto dead on arrival.
“Noong time na ‘yong parang nagmanhid ako, hindi ko alam kung anong iisipin ko,” she says. “Marami kaming plano, di na matutuloy. Pero nilakasan ko ‘yong loob ko.”
|The victim. The doctors declared Roberto Valdez dead on arrival.
Based on autopsy results, Roberto died due to the two gunshot wounds he sustained. There was also no indication that the victim put up a fight. For him not to have been able to defend himself, the authorities concluded that Roberto was attacked by surprise.
But who could have had the motive to kill one of the most respected man in the world of Philippine martial arts?
Billy Alumno relayed to the authorities his account of the day Roberto was killed. According to Billy, they were holding a seminar at the Brent Auditorium in Ultra in Pasig City when the shooting happened around ten in the morning. He said after they heard the shots, they saw a man come out of Roberto’s office. They identified the man as Sunny Sumales, one of their players.
When asked about the possible motive, Billy said that Sunny has long been harboring anger towards Roberto. Apparently, Sunny’s performance has deteriorated and the latter has been excluding him from all the competitions.
|The crime scene. According to witnesses, Roberto Valdez was
shot inside his own office.
Billy also said that Roberto reprimanded Sunny for courting one of their younger members. “Meron kaming isang player na nagustuhan niya. Bata pa kaya nagsumbong itong player na babae,” Billy says. “Pinagsabihan po ng aming presidente.”
Roberto’s wife corroborated Billy’s statement. “Obssessed siya [si Sunny] sa isang atleta na teenager pa,” Grace says. “Kapag n’andito, hina-harass niya to the point na tumigil na sa pagti-training. Bilang president, tauhan mo ‘yan, natural pagsasabihan mo,” adds Grace.
Because of Billy’s statement, Sunny then became the primary suspect for the case. A manhunt ensued.
After conducting a background check, the authorities found out that Sunny was a former officer of the Philippine Army. “Ang ginawa natin, nakipag-coorindate tayo sa joint operation ng Army at saka CIDG ng Camp Crame,” Pasig PNP Chief for Operations Superintendent Romeo Aninag tells ABS-CBN SOCO.
|The suspect. Sunny Sumales.
And on February 23, 2009, Sunny Sumales was finally arrested in Barangay Daraitan, Tanay, Rizal.
In an interview with the ABS-CBN news team, Sunny admitted to committing the crime but showed no remorse in doing so.
On February 24, 2009, he was charged with murder at the Pasig City Regional Trial Court Branch 157. While waiting for his case to be tried, Sunny is currently detained at the Bicutan Metro Manila District Jail.
|Confessions of a killer. The suspect, Sunny Sumales, admitted to killing
Roberto Valdez but showed no remorse in doing so.
ABS-CBN SOCO visited him but he refused to be interviewed.
Grace Valdez, meanwhile, vowed to never stop until justice for her husband is served. For her, it wasn’t only the Muay Thai Association of the Philippines that lost a founding father. Her children lost a caring father while she lost a loving husband.