By Junar Fenequito
DAVAO CITY – The prime suspect in the brutal killing of Christine Silawan – the 16-year-old girl who was found dead with her face skinned to the bones that exposed her skull in Lapu-Lapu City, Cebu – was arrested Friday afternoon in Davao City.
Jonas Bueno was arrested in Guadalupe, Barangay Matina Crossing, at about 5 p.m. Friday, said Chief Inspector Milgrace Driz, Criminal Investigation, and Detection Group-Davao City Field Unit (CIDG-DCFU) chief. He was collared on the strength of an arrest warrant issued by Judge Jerry B Dicdican of the Danao City Cebu Regional Trial Court Branch 25.
Driz said members of the Mindanao Area Police Intelligence Office of the Philippine National Police (PNP), National Bureau of Investigation 11, Regional Intelligence Unit 11 and Davao City Police Office-Police Station 3 served the arrest warrant.
Silawan, a student of Maribago High School, was first reported missing by her mother after she failed to return home from serving as a collector in church on Sunday.
The following day, March 11, her body was found half-naked in a vacant lot in Sitio Mahayahay, Barangay Bankal in Lapu-Lapu City.
Last Wednesday, President Duterte ordered police to hunt down the suspects, including Bueno.
Hours before the arrest, the PNP announced a breakthrough in the investigation after a conversation between Silawan and an unnamed personality, now considered a person-of-interest, was discovered by investigators in a cellular phone retrieved from one of her relatives.
Senior Superintendent Bernard Banac, PNP spokesperson, said the discovery of the exchange of messages between Silawan and the person-of-interest was the first major breakthrough on the case of the teen’s brutal death.
He said the background information of the person-of-interest has yet to be relayed to the PNP national headquarters in Camp Crame, Quezon City, by the Special Investigation Task Group (SITG) which was earlier formed for the speedy resolution of the case.
“According to the SITG, a cellphone was recovered from one of the victim’s relatives. There were conversations found in the cellphone that gave the investigators some leads,” Banac said in a press briefing at Camp Crame.
“The cellphone is owned by the relative. Probably, the victim borrowed it prior to the incident. When she returned the phone, the conversation remained and the person she last talked to is now considered a person-of-interest,” he added.
According to the PNP official, all the information about the person-of-interest is being collated by the Central Visayas Police Regional Office (PRO-7).
Senior Superintendent Lemuel Obon, Lapu-Lapu City police chief, had earlier said investigators were hot on the trail against three suspects.
The supposed name and picture of the person-of-interest are now circulating in social media but Banac appealed to the public not to believe everything that are being posted in the web.
“The name and the picture that was posted in the Internet didn’t come from the SITG. They wouldn’t release information because a manhunt operation is now ongoing against the person-of-interest and they don’t want to jeopardize that,” Banac stressed.
Meanwhile, Banac said that the suspects behind Silawan’s death could have been “psychological maniacs” and drug-crazed people.
“There are criminals who are psychological maniacs that’s why they are able to commit these kinds of brutal and senseless killings. The suspects behind this case might be considered one but these are all just circumstantial,” he explained.
“It may also be related to drug abuse. For persons who have psychological [disorder] and are drug-crazed, if you combine those two, then it is not impossible for them to do grim killings like this case,” he added.
When the body of Silawan was found abandoned in a vacant lot in Barangay Bangkal on Monday, March 11, investigators noted that she was naked from the waist down, thus, raising the possibility that she was raped.
But Banac said that the autopsy results showed otherwise.
“There was no indication based on the autopsy that the victim was raped by her killers,” he said.
Nonetheless, Banac assured the family of the victim that the SITG is doing its best to locate the person-of-interest.
This, he said, could shed light on the gray areas of the on-going investigation.
A P2-million reward has been offered to anybody who could give information that would lead to the arrest of the suspects, Banac said.