Whitewash feared in Maguindanao gang-rape case

Senator Pia S. Cayetano today urged police authorities to speed up their investigation into the Maguindanao gang-rape case in order to apprehend the real violators of “Florence,” the volunteer-nurse who was gang-raped, maimed, and left for dead in a grassy area near the hospital she had been assigned to in South Upi, Maguindanao last September 25.

“With no clear leads yet on the real masterminds four weeks after the gruesome crime was committed, our investigators seem to be facing a blank wall, and I fear that the chances of a whitewash are also increasing as time wears on,” warned Cayetano, Chairperson of the Senate Committee on Youth, Women and Family Relations.

“There should be not let-up in the efforts to arrest the real perpetrators behind the gang-rape and attempted murder of Florence, added the senator, referring to the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), which is conducting a parallel probe.

At the same time, she warned police authorities against repeating the mistake of prematurely announcing the conclusion of the case.

She earlier questioned PNP Chief Raul Bacalzo, who declared last week that the case was already “one hundred percent solved” after a seventh suspect, Melchor Fulgencio, surrendered to the police and owned up to the crime, saying he did it with an accomplice. But Fulgencio would later claim he was only tortured to admit participation in the victim’s gang-rape.

“The PNP Chief, perhaps in his eagerness to solve the case, prematurely declared its ‘conclusion’ following the surrender of the seventh suspect who owned up to the crime.

But now that the seventh suspect has reportedly withdrawn his testimony, and after all the six earlier jailed suspects were released apparently due to lack of evidence, what’s the next move now of the PNP?”

She noted that the Philippine Nurses Association (PNA) itself had expressed reservations over the decision to release all six suspects, hinting that not all of them may be totally innocent. Justice Secretary Leila De Lima, on the other hand, cited reports linking a local government executive to the crime.

“The police can’t afford to drag its feet as the nation cries justice for Florence,” she concluded.

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