Murder in paradise

2

MARIT STINUS-CABUGON

TWENTY-EIGHT shots were fired, eight hit their target and killed 49-year-old lawyer Manuelita “Mia” Mascariñas-Green the day after Valentine’s Day. Five bullets hit the lawyer’s neck and three her head. Green was driving home with her three young children and their yaya when they were attacked in broad daylight in Tagbilaran City, the capital of the province of Bohol. The killers got away by driving their motorcycles into a vehicle that was waiting near the crime scene.

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Principal suspects Lloyd Lancer Gonzaga and Romarico Benigi-an, not hiding their faces, were identified by several witnesses. Gonzaga is the son-in-law of 52-year-old widow Conrada Otero-Blomqvist who had hired Green to handle her cases against Gonzaga. Blomqvist, her daughter and Gonzaga lived in Sweden until Blomqvist bought a 38-room resort in Brgy. Tawala, Panglao from Jovelyn Acebedo-Forsberg, her niece. Together, mother, daughter and son-in-law, were going to run the resort. In June 2015, using 20 armed men reportedly from Davao City, Gonzaga—who hails from Tagum City—took control of the resort and the Forsberg family was driven away (Bohol Chronicle).

In July 2016, Gonzaga evicted Blomqvist who then hired Green. According to Blomqvist, her niece had executed a power of attorney for the deed of sale in her favor but Gonzaga was now claiming Alona Embrace Hotel for himself. Blomqvist told Swedish news publication Expressen that she chose Green because the latter had a reputation for being loyal and for taking good care of her clients. They were like sisters, according to Blomqvist. Gonzaga and Blomqvist retained a Davao City-based lawyer when they were still on good terms. Mr. Forsberg, it turns out, still has legal rights over the resort and retains a lawyer.

Expressen, taking interest in the case because both Blomqvist and Gonzaga are citizens of Sweden, describes Panglao as a “paradise island”. Alona Beach, known for its white sand beach and clear water,s is visited by thousands of local and foreign tourists every year. The place ranks in popularity with such renowned tourist destinations as Boracay and El Nido. Owning a resort on or within walking distance of Alona Beach can be a lucrative business. Something worth fighting for, maybe even worth killing for.

A mother of three young children, Mia Green was an advocate of active non-violence. “She always believed that violence is not the answer to our problems,” a friend of the lady lawyer told me, and added that Green “handled a lot of cases. She was one of those lawyers who still believe fervently that the justice system will eventually work for everyone.” After martial law, Green co-founded Kristianong Alyansa Para Itaguyod ang Tao, the local chapter of Alyansa ng Kristianong Mag-aaral. This now defunct organization promoted change through non-violent, Christian ways, teaching student leaders that differences should and could be settled through peaceful negotiations. Green was also an environmental lawyer and involved in defending the rights of children and women.

Green was able to unearth evidence that illegal activities, including carnapping, sale of stolen cars, and the sale of illegal drugs were taking place at the Alona Embrace Hotel. Subsequently, last October the police raided the resort. The raid yielded several pieces of firearms with no licenses, silencers, ammunition and shabu. However, the fiscal threw out the charges filed against Gonzaga and Benigi-an on the ground that the police committed some errors in conducting the raid. Green also traced the issuance of fake CRs and ORs to LTO in Central Mindanao. She reported all these anomalies to Malacañang through the Presidential Action Center.

Blomqvist has accused the Tagbilaran City and Panglao police of protecting Gonzaga.

Policemen and pillars of Bohol’s justice system who were best buddies of Gonzaga enjoyed freebees at the resort. Policemen and justice department personnel have been seen acting as his errand boys and drivers. Indeed, the police was slow in pursuing the suspects even though their identities, and thus possible whereabouts, were immediately known. The suspects were able to leave Bohol.

Blomqvist ’s differences with the police should be over now that she has retained as her new legal counsel Cebu-based lawyer Inocencio de la Cerna who is known to be close to the PNP. He handles cases for policemen, most recently two police superintendents who held positions at the Police Regional Office 7 until they were relieved by higher headquarters and reassigned to Mindanao for allegedly receiving protection money from a suspected drug lord. De la Cerna assisted Blomqvist in taking control peacefully of the contested resort earlier this month. Green had succeeded in securing the documents that showed Blomqvist’s name as the owner of the property.

Blomqvist got back her resort. How long will the victim and her family wait to get justice? Six weeks have lapsed since the brutal murder of Mia Green and no warrants of arrest have been issued.

resurgence.msc2017@gmail.com

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2 Comments

  1. no truth to the rumour the Secretary of DOT will blame the VP for this as it makes her job pretty hard to sell the Philippines to the world. most likely they will classify this again as one of those isolated case as usual.

  2. Congratulations Ms. Marit for this maiden article. I am glad Manila Times has another outstanding writer in its roster. And Thanks for giving this case national exposure and hoping that authorities will be give accord this case the attention it deserves. Indeed, cases like this one should not go unnoticed. Justice to Atty. Green and to many others should be part of the PNP’s highest priorities.