Pantabangan top officials slapped with rape charges

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Beauty pageants in Pantabangan, Nueva Ecija province have become hazardous for contestants, as another beauty has filed separate rape complaints on March 7 against Pantabangan Mayor Romeo Borja and his son, Vice Mayor Romeo Borja Jr. before the Department of Justice (DOJ).

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Vice Mayor Romeo Borja Jr. already had two rape complaints filed against him at the DOJ, one of them also by a pageant winner in the town, and another by a former maid in their household. He allegedly impregnated and has an illegitimate child with both.

In the latest case, a 17-year-old girl who represented Pantabangan in the Miss Teen Tourism pageant in Nueva Ecija in 2011 claimed that both Mayor Borja and Vice Mayor Borja Jr. repeatedly raped her from May 2011 to November 2012 with the help of her elder cousins.

For the repeated rape of her minor daughter, the mother, Gilda Gonzales of East Poblacion, Pantabangan and a former OFW, filed separate complaints against the Borjas in violation of RA 10364 (Expanded Anti-Trafficking in Person Act of 2012) and RA 8353 (Anti-Rape Law) in relation to RA 7610 (Anti-Child Abuse Law). She also filed complaints against Lady Kris Gonzales and Sophia Gonzales, her daughter’s cousins, who allegedly acted as the Borjas’ accomplices.

In her sworn statement before the Women and Children Protection Division of the Philippine National Police (PNP), the girl claimed she was raped by Mayor Borja several times from April 2011 to November 2012 and also by Vice Mayor Borja Jr. from May 2011 to April 2012.

The girl, who was only 15 years old at the time the rapes started, said that Mayor Borja first raped her on April 15, 2011 inside a room at the Century Hotel in Angeles City, Pampanga province where her cousin Lady brought her supposedly for a pre-pageant dress rehearsal.

She said she was sleeping inside the hotel room with her cousin Lady when around 2 a.m. the mayor, who acted as her sponsor in the pageant, went up to their room having come from the casino downstairs. Borja asked her cousin Lady to go out, leaving her alone with Borja who forced himself upon her.

Borja, she said, threatened to hurt her and her family if she told her parents, but promised to reward her with money and gifts if she would cooperate and stay silent.

The same scenario was repeated on April 27 also inside a room at the Century Hotel. Her cousin Lady brought her to the hotel and kept her there until the Mayor arrived at past 12 a.m. to force her to have sex with him.

On May 14, 2011 she said Lady brought her to the mayor’s office in Pantabangan municipal hall. She said the mayor gave Lady P8,000 after which the mayor brought her to a hotel in San Jose, Nueva Ecija where he again raped her.

In February 2012, she said the mayor raped her again inside Century Hotel and once again on November 13, 2012 inside the Heritage Hotel in Pasay after Lady again delivered her to the mayor who was playing in the hotel’s casino.

When asked why she allowed herself to be used by her cousin Lady and Lady’s sister, Sophia, who frequently asked the mayor for money in exchange for sex with the victim, the latter said she couldn’t do anything because Lady was blackmailing her and threatened to tell her parents about what happened to her and the mayor. She said she was also living under Lady’s guardianship during the time. Also, she said she was scared of the mayor.

She said she couldn’t bear to tell her parents. Her mother was working abroad at the time and her father had a delicate heart ailment.

The girl’s father reportedly suffered a heart attack and died in 2012 after learning about her daughter’s fate at the hands of the Borjas.

The girl said Vice Mayor Borja Jr. first raped her inside a Cabanatuan motel on May 17, 2011. She said Borja Jr. asked her and her cousin to go with him to Cabanatuan, to visit Lady who was supposedly undergoing treatment in a Cabanatuan hospital. But instead of bringing them to the hospital, the vice mayor dropped off her cousin and his driver at a certain politician’s house in Cabanatuan and thereafter brought her to a motel, threatened her with a gun and then forced himself on her.

In July 27, 2011, the girl said Borja Jr.’s bodyguards fetched her and brought her to Aguso Grill near the Pantabangan municipal hall where the vice mayor got her drunk and raped her a second time.

The girl said Borja Jr. also raped her several times inside his office in the municipal hall while his bodyguards acted as lookouts outside and that the vice mayor even took pictures of them naked together.

She said the vice mayor also threatened to hurt her if she told her parents or cried rape.

Attached to the girl’s complaints and sworn statement is a medico-legal report from the PNP Crime Lab, which said the victim suffered deep lacerations in her genitalia and also blunt trauma to the hymen.

In 2012 Borja Jr. had two rape complaints filed against him at the DOJ. A former beauty queen in Pantabangan complained of being raped by the vice mayor at least six times.

Jomar Canlas

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