Admission of De Oro’s ‘Hannibal’ may have exposed severity of city's drug problem

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews/9 March) – Behind that boyish look and cold demeanor may be a story that would make the Cannes-winning “Kinatay” of Brillante Mendoza pale in comparison, and for it, the legal community here is asking the police to waste no time in filing murder charges against 24-year-old Norvin Valmoria, the self-confessed “chop-chop” killer.

Residents along Bigaan River in Barangay Gusa were awakened by the bizarre discovery of dismembered arms and legs wrapped in plastic bag last Feb. 26. Three days later a torso believed to be that of a woman was found by residents in sitio Tipulohon in Barangay Camaman-an.

Then an arrest of Valmoria for drug related offenses Sunday night in Sto. Niño, Barangay 31 may have completed the “chop-chop” puzzle.

Sto. Niño, located between Cogon Market and the sprawling Limketkai Commercial Center, has gained notoriety as a drug haven. Last month, the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) raided a “shabu tiange” in the said barangay and netted 19 suspected drug users and pushers, including SPO1 Anthony Balaba.

Opposition Councilor Roger Abaday, dean of the College of Criminology of Capitol University, did not hide his displeasure over the worsening drug problem in the city.

“Sto. Niño ever since has been a drug trading area. And the city police and the city hall has failed to address this problem despite the huge funds for intelligence and drug enforcement program,” said Abaday.

Upon investigation by the City Drug Enforcement Unit, Valmoria testified to being responsible for the chop-chop case. He identified the victim as a certain Estela Fernandez, 45, of Balingasag, Misamis Oriental. A witness who came out, however, said that the victim may have been the girlfriend of the suspect and may have been killed between Feb. 23 and 26.

Aside from confessing to the grisly crime, Valmoria admitted to using methamphetamine hydrochloride, or shabu, and marijuana.

So far no one has come to the police to confirm if the name that Valmoria volunteered is a real person or whether the victim is another person.

Sr. Supt. Benedicto Lopez, City Police Office director, said that they are still building the case of murder against Valmoria and the possible inclusion of his mother Nonata as accessory or for obstruction of justice. Lopez said that murder charges may be filed within the week.

So far, the police have only filed on Tuesday a case for violation of the Dangerous Drugs Law or Republic Act 9165. Under the said law, drug use is bailable.

Several lawyers, however, are of the opinion that the police should not drag its feet in filing murder case against the suspect as he is a very dangerous person if his confession is to be believed.

“Even with the identity of the victim still being ascertained, the suspect should be charged for murder in the City Prosecutors Office already,” said lawyer Dale Bryan Mordeno, former president of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) Cagayan de Oro – Misamis Oriental chapter.

For the case to reach the court, the prosecutors only need to establish probable cause, said lawyer Neil Sumondong.

Sumondong added that the admission of the suspect, which was done publicly in front of the media, may be admissible in court as the Miranda Doctrine may not apply. “Besides, there is corpus delicte or body of the crime – the body parts found.” He added that it can further be supported by other evidence like DNA, dental records or by testimonial evidence.

Good forensic work, however, may be needed to ensure an airtight murder case against Valmoria.

Lawyer Michael Florentino Dumlao III said that by virtue of the confession of the suspect, the case against him is already strong even if the identity of the victim is yet to be established.

Lawyers Teodulo Ortigoza and Ilya Kristin Ravanera said that the police should focus on the corpus delicte or the body of the crime.

Earlier, Valmoria said that he will guide authorities to the location of the head of the dismembered murder victim, but later on retracted and said that he will only guide the police if his demand that the crime laboratory be equipped with a DNA testing machine is granted.

Sometimes sounding delusional but his speech coherent, Valmoria, who is a medical technology graduate and had worked as a paramedic in a local hospital, said before the cameras and media that he committed the gruesome crime to call the attention of the police and the public about the ill-equipped police investigators. “They should be equipped with a world class DNA machine, and only then will I guide authorities to the head. They still can’t match (the various body parts) if they don’t have the right equipment,” Valmoria said.

Ravanera said that this should not bother the police as the corpus delicte is very clear to prove that a crime of murder has been committed and that the suspect is identified.

Dumlao and Mordeno said that the only defense left of the suspect now is plead insanity, but that for it to be proven, an expert has to testify in court.

The suspect’s mother, who is also believed to be a drug addict, may be implicated in the case as accessory or for obstruction of justice. Witnesses have pointed that she washed the bloodied clothes of his son and had cleaned their rented house located in the second floor of a two-story house.

Police found shabu sniffing paraphernalia, used syringes and other drug paraphernalia in the house of the suspect. (BenCyrus G. Ellorin / MindaNews)