Esperat’s sons graduate

Kevin is graduating from high school while James is graduating from elementary, said Valmi Garcia Mariveles, Marlene’s sister.

Valmi said the family has opted to observe her death anniversary very simply today, as everyone is busy for the children’s graduation next week.

A man walked casually into the dining room of the Esperats from their adjoining store, JJRJ mini mart at around 7:15 on March 24, 2005,  a Maundy Thursday, greeted Marlene “Good Evening,” and just as she looked up, shot her, hitting her right eye. The gunman ran out of the store to the corner of Block 1, Waling-Waling St. Barangay New Isabela, some 20 meters away and turned right to where a tricycle was reportedly waiting.

Ryhnche Arcones,  then 23, Marlene’s second daughter from an earlier relationship, was tending the store  just beside the dining area when the gunman shot her mother.

Marlene did not also live to see her first grandchild, the child of her eldest daughter Janice, then 25. She was scheduled to visit Davao on Easter Sunday to pay them a visit.

Marlene was a chemist turned whistleblower in the Department of Agriculture’s regional office.

The gunman and his accomplices had been sentenced to life terms in late 2006 but the alleged masterminds – Osmena Montaner, finance officer of the Department of Agriculture regional office and Estrella Sabay, regional accountant – continued to elude arrest.

Warrants for their arrest had been served in their residences in Cotabato City afternoon of February 22 but the two suspects had fled.

The arrest warrants were issued on February 4.

Supt. Danilo Bacas, spokesperson of the Philippine National Police in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), told MindaNews the warrant had also been served in the other residence of Montaner in Malabang, Lanao del Sur on March 7 by the 1505th Provincial Mobile Group (PMG) but Montaner was not there.

Montaner and Sabay were named masterminds by former military intelligence agent Rowie Biruar, who helped plan the assassination but later turned state witness.

Through Barua’s testimony, the three other hired killers, Randy Grecia, Gerry Cabayag and Estanislao Bismanos, were sentenced to life imprisonment by Cebu City RTC Judge Eric Menchavez on October 6, 2006. (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)