Lina Gabriel, mother of 14-year-old Reynaldo “Kulot” de Guzman who went missing and was found dead in Nueva Ecija on Tuesday, claimed on Thursday her son’s slain companion, Carl Angelo Arnaiz, planned to rob a tax driver.
“Yes, Carl was a robber,” Gabriel told GMA News in Filipino when asked to comment on the police allegation that Carl Angelo, the 19-year-old former UP student, robbed taxi driver Tomas Marleo Bagcal on the night of August 18.
Gabriel said she obtained the information from Kulot’s friend, “MJ” who supposedly told her that her son and Carl were planning a robbery in Taytay, Rizal.
“His friend MJ told me. He asked me if Kulot was able to come home. He told me that Carl and his friends were planning a robbery in Taytay,” Gabriel said.
She said five persons from their Cainta, Rizal neighborhood were initially involved in the planned robbery, but three of them backed out at the last minute out of fear, including her son Kulot.
“All five of them were talking about planning a robbery. The three went home because they were afraid,” she said.
Only Carl went on with the plan, she said.
Gabriel said Kulot didn’t say anything about planning a robbery, as she reiterated that Carl and Kulot “didn’t know each other” despite saying that the two planned a robbery together.
Carl Arnaiz was killed in an alleged shootout with Caloocan City police who tried to apprehend him for allegedly robbing a taxi driver on C-3 Road, about 25 kilometers from Cainta, Rizal.
Police Officer 1 (PO1) Jeffrey Perez and PO1 Ricky Arquilita claimed Arnaiz fired at them first, prompting them to shoot back.
The Public Attorney’s Office later disputed the statement of the Caloocan police, citing a forensic report indicating that Arnaiz was tortured before he was shot several times on his chest.
De Guzman, Arnaiz’s 14-year-old companion on the night he disappeared, was found dead in Gapan, Nueva Ecija, a three-hour drive, on Tuesday with multiple stab wounds. Kulot’s head was covered with packaging tape.
Arnaiz was an elementary school valedictorian and a Makati Science High School graduate who took up interior design in UP Diliman but quit because of depression.
Taxi driver missing
Tomas Bagcal, the taxi driver and lone witness who can testify on whether Arnaiz was a robber killed by the police, is missing, according to the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI).
Bagcal, 54, was last seen by Caloocan police on August 28 when he gave his second affidavit on the death of Carl Arnaiz, whom he accused of robbery.
NBI Metro Manila head Cesar Bacani said investigators went to the house of Bagcal in Ipil, Marikina Heights where his wife, a teacher at the University of the Philippines, lives with their children.
Bagcal was an overseas Filipino worker.
“According to the wife, they have been separated for a long time, and that Bagcal only visited them from time to time,” Bacani told The Manila Times.
The NBI official also said agents looked for Bagcal last Monday at the headquarters of R&E Taxi in Baesa, Caloocan City but were told he had not returned since August 28.
Based on Bagcal’s account, Arnaiz flagged down a taxi at about 3:30 a.m. on August 18, and asked to be brought to 5th Avenue in Caloocan City.
But the teenager declared a hold up and took some of Bagcal’s money before disembarking.
Bagcal went to the police, who searched for Arnaiz.
When confronted on C-3 Road, Arnaiz supposedly fired at police and was killed.
Found in Arnaiz’s possession were two sachets of dried marijuana leaves, three sachets of shabu, and a backpack containing assorted personal effects.
The Department of Justice on Thursday ordered the NBI to locate Bagcal.
Bacani admitted that NBI agents have not interviewed witnesses who could definitely say he or she saw the police fire at Arnaiz.
“What we have are circumstantial testimonies. There is no eyewitness yet,” the NBI official said.
An autopsy performed by the forensic expert of the Public Attorney’s Office showed that Arnaiz had five gunshot wounds – three in the chest, and one each on the left side of his upper back. There was evidence of torture.
Robbery gang behind it?
Director Oscar Albayalde, the National Capital Region Police Office chief, said on Thursday the killings of de Guzman and Arnaiz were probably done by a robbery crime group.
“Probably they have a group. Probably after the killing of Carl, the group is already holding this 14-year-old boy. After a few days, maybe they just threw him somewhere,” Albayalde said in a television interview.
He defended the testimony of Bagcal who filed two conflicting affidavits on how Arnaiz allegedly robbed him in Caloocan City, calling the discrepancies “minor.”
Albayalde said “time lapse” was the reason Bagcal gave different locations on where the crime happened in his first and second affidavits.
Duterte urged to re-evaluate
Malacañang on Thursday expressed its “profound dismay” over the death of de Guzman, saying the government would seek justice for the killing.
“The National Bureau of Investigation has already been ordered to conduct a thorough investigation and case build-up over the killing of the young boy. We call on authorities to bring the perpetrators of this suspicious crime with justice,” Palace spokesman Ernesto Abella said.
Senators from the majority and minority blocs called on President Duterte to re-evaluate the campaign against illegal drugs following the series of deaths involving teenagers.
Sen. Grace Poe sought an inquiry, and Sen. Joseph Victor ”JV“ Ejercito said he was “numbed by the cold-blooded murder” of de Guzman.
“We will not allow the war against illegal drugs be exploited by butchers and monsters,” Ejercito said.
with JAIME R. PILAPIL, JOMAR CANLAS, LLANESCA PANTI, CATHERINE S. VALENTE AND JEFFERSON ANTIPORDA