SOCO: The ghost of Balagtas
During the day, Northville 6 in Barangay Santol, Balagtas, Bulacan is a bustling relocation area with its street serving as a main thoroughfare for vehicles and passersby.
But when night falls and darkness cloaks the surroundings, residents steer clear from its street. A street rumored to be haunted by a ghost.
“Nakikita ko iyong mukha ng bata. Nagigising ako bigla tapos sinasabi, ‘kain na’,” Flor Niegas, a resident of area remembers of her encounter with the alleged village ghost.
“Kinikilabutan ako. Kasi naaalala ko para siyang humihingi ng saklolo,” she adds.
Michael Sayosa, another resident, admits that he is spooked by the ghost stories floating around. “Hindi nga po ako nagpapaabot ng gabi diyan. Natatakot po ako baka magpakita sa akin,” he says.
Northville 6 residents say that it’s been two years since the alleged ghost began haunting their village.
A ghost believed to be that of two year-old Mark Joseph Dela Cruz who died in August of 2008.
|The street in Barangay Santol allegedly haunted by a ghost.|
|2-year old Mark Joseph Dela Cruz.|
A mother’s nightmare
Around 7 p.m. of August 10, 2008, unexpected visitors knocked on Joanna Bautista’s doors.
It was the Northville 6 barangay tanods asking her to accompany them to the barangay hall.
“Ang sabi [nila], meron daw po dun nabangga, mag-ama. Sabi kung kilala ko daw po. Parang bumilis po ang tibok ng puso ko,” Joanna tells ABS-CBN Scene of the Crime Operatives.
With a sinking feeling in the pit of her stomach, Joanna immediately went with the group.
Upon arrival, Joanna saw her live-in partner, Jerico Sudario, waiting inside the barangay hall.
Realizing that her son, Mark, who was supposed to be with Sudario at that time, was nowhere to be found, Joanna’s fear worsened.
At the exact same moment, Joanna’s friend arrived to tell her that her son was rushed to the Gubatan Medical Clinic. Immediately, Joanna went to the hospital with her mother.
When they arrived at the hospital, Joanna’s heart sank as she saw her 2-year old child, battered, bloodied, and bruised all over.
“Nakabenda ang ulo niya. Iyong dalawang mata niya, ano ng dugo. Tapos iyong ipin niya, wala nang natitira,” she painfully recalls.
“Di na po ako umalis sa tabi ng anak ko hanggang pati anak ko, umiiyak [na rin]. Sabi ko ‘anak, nandito na ako, kaya mo yan’. Hanggang sa sumuka na siya ng dugo.”
A painful goodbye
Joanna never left her son’s side. But after five hours, Mark finally passed away.
“Hindi po ako makapaniwala na wala na ang anak ko. Napakasakit po. Sabi ko, sana ako na lang,” she says. Joanna felt her world falling apart.
But amidst the agonizing pain, her desire to find out the truth behind her son’s death surfaced.
And that same night, she confronted her live-in partner for answers.
According to Sudario, he went out that night and brought Joanna’s son with him. They were walking down the street when all of a sudden, a group of men attacked them, he said.
“May humabol daw po sa kanila. Tapos tumakbo sila ng anak ko, nabundol daw po sila ng tricycle tapos tumalsik daw po sila,” Joanna recalls Sudario telling her.
Suspiciously, Sudario wasn’t able to get the the tricycle’s plate number nor was he able to remember the faces of their attackers.
And when the medico-legal officer of Bocaue, Bulacan conducted a post-mortem examination on Mark’s body, he came up with contradicting results.
“Malayong-malayo na masagasaan sa tricycle kasi ang gasgas sa ulo eh. Konti lang ang galos sa mukha,” Dr. Benito Caballero, the medico-legal officer who examined Mark’s body, tells ABS-CBN SOCO.
Furthermore, Dr. Caballero deduces that the child was murdered. “Sa aking assessment as a medico-legal expert, ang alam ko, hinawakan sa paa, either pinalo siya o ibinagsak siya sa semento kaya fractured ang kanyang frontal bone, parietal, at occipital bone.”
Joanna was filled with rage. She was about to lash at her live-in partner when she was approached by some of their neighbors.
As it turns out, they saw exactly what happened to Mark. One of them was farmer Hilario Osorio.
According to Mang Hilario, they just finished the day’s work and were leaving the farm when he and his co-worker saw Sudario with the two-year old.
“Paahon kami sa bukid, nakita naming ang isang lalaki, hinahamapas sa semento iyong bata,” Mang Hilario recalls.
“Sinigawan namin. Biglang tumakbo tapos hinagis iyong bata. Tapos siya tumakbo pagewang-gewang,” he adds.
Immediately, Mang Hilario approached the child. He could still remember the gruesome scene.
“Umiiyak ang bata. Duguan siya. Lumalabas na sa ilong at tenga ang dugo,” he remembers.
With the help of a passing motorist, Mang Hilario brought the bloodied child to the hospital where, 5 hours later, he breathed his last breath.
Confessions of a killer
Upon the hearing the testimonies of the eyewitnesses, the Balagtas police was immediately informed of the case. Investigation ensued at once.
A team of investigators went to the location where Mang Hilario purportedly saw Sudario beating up Mark.
“Nakakita tayo ng bakas ng dugo sa gutter. Doon hinampas ng suspek iyong biktima.,” explains
Police Officer 2 Randy Gracela who was with the Balagtas polcie at that time.
“Wala kaming nakitang ebidensya na iyong bata nasagasaan kasi kung nasagasaan iyon, dapat may mga fracture pa iyon sa buto o katawan,” he further clarifies.
|The crime scene. The gutter where Sudario beat up 2-year old Mark was still stained with blood when inspected by the authorities|
At that point, Sudario decided to confess to the murder.
Our very own Gus Abelgas was there to document his confession on August 11 of 2008.
“Pinaghahampas ko po diyan sa kalye. Eto po ay dahil sa selos. Ako po ay humihingi ng tawad,” Sudario confessed.
Apparently, when Sudario came home that night and did not find Joanna, jealousy raged inside him and he took it out on the poor 2-year old.
With this, 22-year old Sudario was charged with murder by the Malolos, Bulacan Provincial Prosecutors Office.
|The arrest. Sudario being arrested by Balagtas policemen after his confession.|
|Gus Abelgas at the crime scene with suspect, Jerico Sudario.|
|Gus Abelgas interviewing one of the arresting officers onsite.|
Sudario is currently detained at the Malolos Provincial Jail.
ABS-CBN SOCO visited him for an interview.
But contrary to his confession 2 years ago, during the interview, Sudario insisted that everything that happened was an accident. Nevertheless, his denial does not absolve him from the crime that evidence proved he committed.
Meanwhile, Joanna believes that justice is at their side. All that she wants is for a swift trial so that her son’s soul will be finally put to rest.
“Joseph, kahit ano gagawin ko para mabigyan ka namin ng katarungan kasi mahal na mahal ka namin. Hindi ka pa rin namin nakakalimutan.”
|A mother in anguish. Joanna Bautista pleading for justice for the death of her son.|