FORMER beauty queen and actress Rochelle Barameda is urging government officials to resume the search for Manuel Montero, a vital witness in the kidnapping and murder of her sister, Ruby Rose Barrameda.
Ruby Rose vanished in 2007. Her body was found two years later, stuffed and cemented inside a steel drum in the waters of Manila Bay off Navotas City.
Montero had turned state witness after he implicated Ruby Rose’s father-in-law Manuel Jimenez Jr., estranged husband Manuel Jimenez 3rd and uncle-in-law Lope Jimenez.
But he later recanted, saying he lied in his testimony.
Early this year Montero walked out of compound of the Regional Police Intelligence Operations unit at Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City where he and his family were under protective custody. He has not been seen since.
When a police tracker team failed to find him, the Barrameda family sought the creation of teams from other government agencies to continue the search. Rochelle said Montero “has to surface and explain in court why he recanted.”
“I want to appeal even to President Aquino to send other investigators like the National Bureau of Investigation to hunt for Montero and his family,” Rochelle told The Manila Times.
She said Montero has to explain why he recanted when he was the one who led police to the drum that contained Ruby Rose’s body.
In the notice of withdrawal of consent and testimony he sent to the Malabon Regional Trial Court Branch 170, Montero said he lied when he implicated the Jimenez family to Ruby Rose’s disappearance and murder.
Rochelle said she was shocked when Montero withdrew his testimony. She said Montero was close to their family when her sister was still alive.
Montero is the right-hand man of Lope Jimenez, who owns the Buena Suerte Jimenez Fishing and Trading Co., one of the biggest suppliers of fish in the local market.
Rochelle, now 36, admitted that she and her family are getting tired and exasperated by the unexpected twists and delays in the hearing of the case, but they will never stop their quest for justice.
“We are not giving up no matter what. Ruby Rose deserves justice and we will get it for her,” she said.
Rochelle said she was very close to her sister who would have been 33 years old now.
“I always bring something of her (personal things) with me wherever I go. In fact, she is somehow my guardian angel now, protecting me from unforeseen harm and accidents for so many times now,” she told The Times.
Until now, she would talk to Ruby Rose before sleeping at night and makes it a point to wake up at 3 a.m. to communicate with her because occultists say it is the best time to “feel” the presence of spirits.
Rochelle said the Imbestigador program which showed a special feature of her sister’s case in August went to the National Capital Region Police Office and saw in the CCTV footage Montero walking in the corridor of the police headquarters that was a safe house for him and his family.
Montero’s family has also vanished.
She said Montero once told her that he and his family were finding life difficult at the NCRPO camp.
In the meantime, Manuel Jimenez Jr. remains at the Philippine Heart Center where he has been confined after Judge Hector Almeida of the Malabon Regional Trial Court Branch 170 allowed his transfer from the Angono jail.