Boholana lawyer’s murder sparks outrage, grief
Thousands of Boholanos have expressed outrage over the ruthless ambush and murder of a well-loved Boholana lawyer – and relatives, colleagues and friends from all over the world have unlocked floodgates of tears following the death of what the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP-Bohol) has described as “a young wife and mother, kin and friend, defender of women and children and the poor, teacher, advocate for Mother Earth, follower of Christ…”
Atty. Mia Manuelita Mascariñas-Green, 49, was driving her Toyota Innova on Wednesday at 4:30 p.m., with her three daughters (age 9 and 2-year-old twins) and their nanny riding at the backseat when four gunmen blocked her car at corner Zamora St and J.A. Clarin St in Barangay Dao, Tagbilaran, and fired at her car several times, aiming at the driver’s seat.
While the nanny and the three helpless daughters were miraculously unharmed by the raining bullets, the former law professor at Holy Name University sustained three gunshot wounds in the head and another four to the body. She was rushed to the Holy Name University Medical Center but doctors failed to save her life. She died at 6:45 pm on Wednesday.
Crime investigators said 27 empty bullet shells belonging to.45 caliber and 9mm pistols were recovered at the crime scene.
The IBP-Bohol Chapter, in a statement released to The Bohol Tribune yesterday, described the act of the perpetrators as “a gross overkill” and called the attackers as “cowards” and “scoundrels” for “snuffing out the life” of a defenseless woman who had just fetched her kids from school, and was on her way home in Loon town.
“The dastardly act perpetrated by those cowards was not just an attack on the person of Atty. Mia but also an assault on every man and woman working and living for law and justice,” the IBP-Bohol Chapter Chapter said in a strongly-worded statement.
The group called the crime as “an atrocity committed against every justice-seeking and freedom-loving individual.”
Reports said the four riding-in-tandem criminals, after ensuring that they had killed their prime target, were even heard and seen laughing, mocking and making faces at Green’s horrified, terrorized kids before they sped off toward the direction of Corella town.
The death of Atty. Mascariñas-Green, a known defender of the poor and the oppressed, sent shockwaves all over the world as it shattered the relative peaceful status of the province of Bohol.
Green was the first ever lawyer to have been murdered in the province of Bohol – and her death has unleased cries for justice and expressions of condemnations from all spectra of society.
Gov. Edgar M. Chatto, at the conclusion of his State of the Province Address (SOPA) on Friday, devoted a moment to honor the life of Atty. Mascariñas-Green and vowed to help bring justice to the loved ones of the slain lawyer.
The governor was visibly overwhelmed by a great grief over the loss of the slain lady lawyer.
“I end this address not with a quote but a dedication of my entire speech to the memory of Atty. Mia Manuelita Mascariñas-Green,” Chatto said in the finale of his SOPA.
Her husband, British national Stuart “Estong” Green, was abroad when the late Wednesday afternoon murder of Mascarariñas by ambush occurred in Dao, Tagbilaran City late Wednesday afternoon.
“Her death has left a hole in my heart and, I am sure, in the hearts of many other Boholanos,” Chatto said.
The governor was “angry” at her killers and vowed they could not go “unpunished.”
Chatto ordered a manhunt without let-up as soon as he learned of Mascariñas murder, which happened a day after the Valentine.
The Boholanos will “seek justice for Atty. Mia and all others who lost their lives to similar violent incidents.”
The governor rallied all to “unite and continue our crusade for a non-killing society.”
Chatto wrapped up his SOPA on a positive note that “every challenge gives us an opportunity to rise higher.”
Meanwhile, the IBP-Bohol Chapter, slammed the assassins, saying, “They stifled a lone voice but ended up unleashing a chorus of angry but righteous voices crying for justice and seeking out vindication, but not in their warped, ugly and violent version.”
“Lady Justice is weeping now with the cruel death of a beloved daughter, and her immaculate vestment is stained with the latter’s blood. But IBP Bohol vows to wipe those tears and blood with the resolve to carry on the legacy of Atty. Mia. She shall not die in vain,” said the IBP-Bohol.
MASTERMIND AND GUNMEN IDENTIFIED
Hours after the shocking ambush-slay of Atty. Mascariñas-Green, the identity of the mastermind were already circulating among members of the legal profession in Bohol.
A court official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told The Bohol Tribune that there was only person who has the capacity and the motive to murder the lady lawyer.
The official, without giving details, said Atty. Mascariñas-Green has been receiving death threats in relation to a property case she handled.
The property was later identified as Alona Embrace Hotel, which was allegedly claimed by the prime suspect of Atty. Green’s ambush-slay from the real owner.
All the speculations were finally cleared after City Police Chief, Supt. Nicomedes Olaivar, in a radio interview, publicly identified the alleged mastermind of the ambush-slay of Atty. Mascariñas-Green as Lloyd Lancer Sylio Gonzaga, who is the assumed proprietor of Alona Embrace Hotel located in Barangay Tawala, Panglao town, Bohol.
Supt. Olaivar had also identified one of the gunmen as Romanico Templado Benigian.
In October last year, Gonzaga and Benigian were raided and arrested by agents of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) at their residence in Tawala, Panglao.
Packs of shabu and several high-caliber weapons and ammunitions were seized from the suspects.
Surprisingly, the duo were able to post bail on a non-bailable offense.
Sources said Gonzaga, a security agency owner, was often heard bragging about his alleged connections in the police, military, NBI, and the Supreme Court.
Sources also said that Gonzaga, a native of Tagum, Davao del Norte, was known to have name-dropped prominent individuals including Pres. Rody Duterte and PNP General Director Ronaldo “Bato” Dela Rosa as one of his alleged “connections.”
On Friday (February 17, 2017) at 1:30 a.m., the SITG (Special Investigation Tasked Group) composed of personnel from Tagbilaran City Police Station, Bohol CIDG, Bohol PIB, Bohol PPSC, Panglao Police Station and Bohol Tourist Police Unit under the leadership of Supt. Olaivar, served a search warrant at the reported location of Gonzaga and Benigian at Alona Embrace Hotel.
The police operation was proved a failure as the alleged killers of Atty. Green had left before the police arrived.
A hand grenade, a .38 caliber of pistol, ammunitions and sachets of shabu and drug paraphernalia were found at the rooms where Gonzaga and Benigian and their cohorts were reportedly hiding.
The public has expressed disappointment over the way the police have handled the manhunt operation.
Several lawyers said there was no need for the police to apply for a search warrant when in fact they could have directly raided the place and arrested Gonzaga and his cohorts, following the principle of hot pursuit operation.
Reports said that applying for a search warrant only provided an opportunity for the perpetrators to flee Bohol.
P500,000 REWARD MONEY
Friends and colleagues of Atty. Mascariñas-Green have started a fund-raising campaign, aiming to raise as much as P500,000 as a reward for anyone who could provide information about the whereabouts of the criminals.
The City Government of Tagbilaran, through City Mayor John Geesnell “Baba” Yap, has set aside P100,000 as cash reward for anyone who can help bring justice to the family of the slain lady lawyer.
PRAYERS, FLOWERS OFFERED AT THE CRIME SCENE
On Saturday (Feb. 18) morning, friends, former classmates, colleagues in the law practice, judges, court employees and environment advocates in Bohol gathered for over two hours for “Pagyukbo,” and a holy mass to re-consecrate the stretch of road where Atty. Mia Mascariñas-Green died to assassin’s bullets.
Atty. Mia will be laid to her final rest on Monday, according to an unconfirmed report.
Reverend Fathers Fernando Po and Manuel Romerde SVD solemnized the “Tribute” February 18 from 6:00 to past 8 AM for the lawyer who was described as confident but not conceited, passionate but not hysterical, mild mannered but not one to run away from an argument of a fight.
Wearing white shirts with Justice for Mia and bringing fresh white flowers or lit candles, everyone prayed and called for justice during the Tribute while from the Hall of Justice, lawyers and court officials and employees revved at the motorcade which would later join the tribute.
“It doesn’t make sense,” a wheelchair bound Father Po said, his voice cracking as he delivered the day’s homily for the slain lawyer.
Bohol Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) President Atty. Teddy Lagang said they condemn the killing of their kind and asked the National Bureau of Investigation to track the killers.
The death of Atty. Green came to be the third attack of a lawyer in a possibly work-related attempt to threaten or silence them. Two lawyers have died while one escaped in these attacks.
At the liturgy for the re-consecration of the H. Zamora Street by Fr. Po, friends of Mia shake their heads in despair and grate their teeth in anger at the cowardly act, some demanded blood.
In a country so divided by the planned re-imposition of death penalty to deter crimes, with a heavy heart, Boholanos have found a heart-wrenching rebuttal: the ghastly murder the soft-mannered lawyer.
It could have been another ordinary day in the grind for the Boholana lawyer more noted for her staunch principles, authentic non-violence and bias for the poor.
At 5 PM, she fetched her kids from school in the family car, taking a rather predictable route skirting narrow roads and traffic to her home about three kilometers from her daughters’ school.
With the nanny, and three kids, Mia drove their Toyota Innova along the national highway before taking the Dao Terminal Access Road when a motorcycle with a backrider drove past her, blocked her way and the gun-wielding back rider disembarked.
Another two men who waited at the corner for her to make the left turn approached the car from the right, while the backrider shooter pumped bullets into the car and to her. The shooter on the right joined him.
To make sure she would not survive the onslaught, the shooters opened her car doors and pumped more bullets, before speeding off by motorcycles.
Witnesses said the assassins drove off laughing.
While the three traumatized kids and the nanny survived the ambush, Mia did not.
Immediately after her death, Police Regional Director Noli Taliño ordered a manhunt for the suspects.
Tagbilaran City Police Chief Nicomedes Olaivar, in his statements said Atty. Mia was caught in the conflict between a client and a resort owner.
Over the death, Green Family has offered P500,000 for the capture of the suspects in the ambush-murder.
From the witnesses and the circumstances, police authorities identified Romanico Templano Benigi-an and Lloyd Lancer Gonzaga as tow of the way-laying suspects.
Both were arrested last year for illegal possession of fire arms, PSupt Olaivar said.
But the suspects, who were sighted in Alona Embrace Hotel in Panglao island, eluded arrest when police authorities swooped down upon them.
The owner of the hotel has been identified as the mastermind of the ambush murder.
Recovered however from the Gonzaga bedrooms were two hand grenades, a .45 caliber pistol, a .38 caliber revolver and two packs of crystal meth in the room.
And while police authorities has considered the case solved by the identification of the suspects, Boholanos obviously want more.
“How do you measure justice, let me count the ways: suspect identified, suspect caught, case filed against suspect, suspect sentenced, suspect jailed for the crime committed?” posts a close friend of Atty. Green, Rosalinda Paredes, in her facebook account.
Taking a snipe at how justice in the country crawls and how technicality is used and abused by parties, Paredes, whose husband is also a lawyer asked, “Where are we now? How do we know we have achieved justice?”
When authorities said they have the suspects identified and considers the case closed, she has one question.
“Why is it that I still feel sad?” Paredes asked. (with reports from Rey Anthony Chiu of PIA-Bohol and Ven C. Arigo)