Serial rapist’s latest victim: 16-year old girl from Bato
posted 6-Aug-2019  ·  
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Intelligence officers of the Virac police station are exerting all efforts to identify the driver-accomplice of a serial rapist who was arrested last week for abducting and sexually abusing a 16-year old high school student from Bato town.

An official source told the Tribune that the accomplice, who drove the tricycle that the victim had boarded from Cabugao Integrated School during that fateful evening of July 24, 3019, was probably the same man who had accompanied the suspect, Mark Anthony Romero, in the previous rape incidents attributed to him.

The still traumatized girl is the 6th to fall victim to Romero, who has been charged with 12 counts of rape, one count of kidnapping with rape, one count of attempted rape, one count of kidnapping and serious illegal detention, two counts of grave coercion and one count of grave threats in a criminal record stretching back to 2007 when he was just 22 years old.

According to the account of this latest incident, the Grade 9 student waited outside the gate of Cabugao Integrated School at 7 P.M. of July 24 after working with her classmates on a school project.

She boarded a tricycle bound for Virac, intending to alight near her family’s house in Marinawa. The tricycle driver, however, ignored her call to stop at Marinawa and sped past it, with the man beside her clamping a handkerchief soaked in chemical to her face, making her lose consciousness.

When she regained her senses at about 3 A.M. the following day, she was in a hut with her clothes scattered on the floor, naked and aching with pain in her private parts.

After putting on her clothes, she came out of the hut and after a short climb was on the national highway near Sto. Domingo bridge. She began walking until she reached the Bato-San Miguel tricycle terminal at the Virac Sports Center where she took a tricycle to Marinawa.

That same day at 11 A.M., she and her parents went to the Bato police station to report her gruesome experience.

The OIC-police chief, Lt. Francis Tabo I, immediately coordinated with the Virac police station, which sent through cellphone a rogue’s gallery of pictures of persons suspected of or charged with rape.

Upon seeing a picture of Romero, the victim went into hysterics and collapsed into her mother’s arms.

Law enforcers in civilian clothes were then sent to Romero’s residence in Bigaa to confirm that he was there and would not be able to escape.

Accompanied by the police, she exhibited the same emotional distress upon identifying Romero.

At the Virac police station, the suspect was about to be put into the detention cell when he refused to be subjected to a body search. It soon turned out that he was hiding something, as a sachet containing white crystalline granules believed to be shabu was found in the left pocket of his short pants.

The source also told the Tribune that Romero identified an individual as the driver of the tricycle at the time of the incident, but the victim was not able to identify him as the one driving the vehicle. The police are still evaluating the suspect’s volunteered information as it is probable that the girl may not have noticed the driver but not the suspect who was already inside the sidecar when she boarded it that night.

It is also possible that the suspect is deliberately giving false information to mislead investigators and thus taint the evidence against him, the police officer stated.

The tricycle believed to have been used in the crime has already been recovered. The vehicle is reportedly registered in the name of Romero’s father and did not have a Motorized Tricycle Operator’s Permit (MTOP) from the municipal government.

Romero is now back behind bars, perhaps for a longer time, after serving a short sentence. Last March 2019, he managed to convince a victim of kidnapping, serious illegal detention and attempted rape to agree to a plea bargain in the twin cases filed before RTC Branch 42.

ROMERO’S PAST CASES

The cases were filed against him and his accomplice in August 2014, when Romero was already saddled with 14 previous criminal offenses.

The complainant, a 20-year old pregnant woman, averred that at 6 P.M. of May 20, 2013, she was in front of 888 Gold store along Rizal Avenue when she flagged down a tricycle driven by the unidentified respondent, with a male companion riding at his back who was later identified as Romero. She asked that she be transported to the terminal of Bato-bound vans in front of Catanduanes Colleges.

When she boarded the tricycle, Romero joined her at the passenger’s seat. As they approached the CC area, she asked the driver to stop as she would alight from the tricycle. Instead of heeding her, the driver accelerated the tricycle while Romero pointed a knife at her groin while saying: “Dae ka magribok, gagadanon taka!”

They went towards barangay Sto. Domingo just past the bridge. Romero dragged her by the hair out of the tricycle and brought her down the stairs, inside a nipa hut in an isolated area and locked her inside before leaving her alone. The momentary absence of the two men gave her the opportunity to contact her live-in partner through text to ask for help but she received no reply.

After nearly 30 minutes, Romero and the other man returned to the nipa hut. Romero removed his clothes and forcibly stripped the victim of her dress. She was told to lie on the bed and, despite her plea to have pity on her as she was pregnant, Romero placed himself on top of her and kissed her neck and private parts. She vigorously fought his advances by pushing and kicking him while the other man sat on the bed and watched them.

Luckily for her, the other man told Romero: “Tama na yan ta bados an. Magbakal na mun-a ning alak boda sigarilyo.” When Romero left, the man told her to hurriedly put on her clothes as he would bring her to the terminal. In her haste, she left her shoes inside the hut. They boarded his tricycle and sped to Virac, where she was left in front of the Christian Polytechnic Institute of Catanduanes (CPIC) in Francia where her family found her.

In his counter-affidavit, Romero vehemently denied the accusations and said that at the date and time mentioned by the complainant he was at their residence and never got out of their house. He surmised that the alleged crime was readily ascribed to him because of his previous police record. He also bewailed the process in which he was identified as the perpetrator of the alleged crime merely on the basis of the picture shown to the complainant by the police officers.

The prosecutor, however, stated that Romero’s claims deserve scant consideration and said that there was nothing irregular in his being identified through the rogue’s gallery kept by the policemen. He particularly noted that Romero’s alibi that he was with his wife and two kids at the time cannot be given full faith as it was uncorroborated by other witnesses.

In October 2012, he was arrested in Hawan Grande in connection with four counts of rape, one count of forcible abduction with rape, one count of robbery, two for grave threats and two more for grave coercion filed against him before RTC Branch 43.

Sources at the Hall of Justice disclosed that three other victims have filed a total of six other complaints for sexual abuse against Romero since 2007 but these have been dismissed by the Court due to the non-appearance of the victims and legal technicalities.

In the 2012 complaints, the victim, who was 17 when the incidents occurred, had filed an Omnibus Motion to Withdraw Complaints, claiming that the filing of the complaints was due only to the pressure of her parents when they learned she was having a relationship with a married man. The motion was denied by the prosecution.

According to court records, the victim, also a resident of Bigaa, was 17 when she heard over an FM radio station that Romero was looking for a text mate. He had identified himself as Jasper Montoya, a UP graduate, single and resident of San Andres.

After exchanging text messages, with the respondent beginning to court her, they met in November 2011 at the Catanduanes State Colleges where she studied. On Dec. 13, at 10 P.M., she was about to go home when Romero, who was driving a tricycle, asked to take her home.

Instead, Romero drove straight to a hut in Sto. Domingo where she was grabbed and raped. He only stopped when someone approached the hut and Romero introduced her as his girlfriend. It was only after they went out that she slapped him.

On Dec. 16, he texted her to apologize and promised to give her a laptop. She agreed to meet him, thinking he was remorseful. From CSC, he brought her to a friend’s house in San Pablo and after drinking liquor, they traveled to Salvacion, San Andres and then to Catagbacan where their motorcycle slid to the pavement. On their way back, they sought shelter from the rain in a nipa hut where he forced her to have sex with him. He told her to tell her parents that she met an accident and left her at EBMC.

She then refused to respond to his text messages until Jan. 23, 2012 when he fetched her in front of the school using his tricycle. She said she saw a gun inside his bag. He brought her to a house in Cabcab where he forced her into a room and raped her. He allegedly threatened to shoot her, claiming to be part of a big syndicate with policemen as friends.

On Jan. 27, 2012, he forced her to Baras to attend a friend’s birthday party and when they came back, raped her at an unoccupied house in San Isidro Village. Weeks later, she learned his true identity.

Sometime in May, he threatened to destroy her reputation if she would not send him P3,000. She came up with only P1,500.

On June 15, she boarded a tricycle to school but the respondent and another man suddenly entered and sat inside and the driver drove off, taking them to Maribina in Bato where the three men had a drinking spree in a hut where she was later raped, as his two companions laughed.

On July 5, he forced her to file a rape complaint against one Jomar Camacho of San isidro Village before barangay officials of Palnab. The complaint was later dropped when she told her parents about it and her ordeal with Romero. She later received text messages threatening to kill a member of her family.

The cases were settled after the Court approved the plea bargaining.

TRICYCLE USED IN SEX CRIMES

The latest incident involving a tricycle utilized in a crime comes just weeks after a Bato woman complained on social media that she and her child were victims of a robber who was inside the tricycle they boarded in Virac.

Instead of stopping at their destination, the driver reportedly sped up while the man riding with the victims robbed them of their cash.

Unfortunately, according to an informed source, she could not provide a clear description of the culprit and the driver accomplice, as well as the plate number of the tricycle.

A review of the CCTV cameras along the route that the tricycle took yielded no clues as the images were of low quality. The woman, it is claimed, is no longer interested in filing a case.

In August 2018, a female student of the Catanduanes State University (CSU) survived a rape attempt by a tricycle driver in Virac.

The victim, along with a fellow student, had boarded a tricycle at the Virac Town Center at about 10 P.M.

After one of them alighted at the Palta Big, the tricycle proceeded towards San Andres until the driver stopped along an isolated part of the national highway in Palta Small where he forced the remaining coed out of the vehicle and then dragged her towards a bushy area.

As the suspect was laying the victim on the ground, she groped around for something to use as a weapon and found a rock which she used to strike the suspect on the head. This allowed her to flee to the road where a passing van saw her waving for help and allowed her on board. In San Andres, she went to the police to report the incident but refused to have it recorded in the blotter for yet unknown reason.

It is said that the victim, who was once a witness in a crime investigated by the police station, was unable to remember the franchise number of the tricycle and only described the suspect as thin-looking with long hair.


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