SUSPECTS TRIED TO DIVERT POLICE ATTENTION IN NIDA BLANCA MURDER - PNP
San Juan, Metro Manila, Nov. 12, 2001 - (STAR) By Christina Mendez - The Philippine National Police (PNP) vowed yesterday to arrest as soon as possible the suspects in last week’s murder of multi-awarded actress Nida Blanca.
This developed as homicide investigators vowed to make a significant breakthrough in their probe of the slaying even as they focused on personal grudge as a likely motive for the crime.
PNP Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) chief Nestorio Gualberto said the killer could be among those who accompanied Blanca to Casino Filipino in Parañaque City on the night of Nov. 6.
Gualberto said the investigators wondered why Blanca’s companions at the casino did not admit being with her shortly before her death.
"The suspects obviously tried to divert police attention. I think the suspects know that we have established who they are. We are still gathering evidence," Gualberto said.
PNP community relations chief Director Thompson Lantion said investigators have started picking up pieces of the puzzle.
"The PNP chief is expected to announce a breakthrough in the following days," Lantion said in a radio interview.
"We already have four witnesses who established that the actress played at the casino on the eve of her death. The tapes could aid us, but it would be immaterial during court proceedings because this can be altered," Gualberto said.
A member of Task Force Marsha, specifically formed to spearhead the investigation of the murder, said Blanca — Dorothy Jones in real life — might have been killed because of her decision to testify as a principal witness in a P1-million estafa case.
However, a foreigner tagged as a primary suspect in the estafa suit has been arrested and detained, giving rise to speculations that a killer-for-hire was commissioned to do Blanca in.
The investigators were also taking a closer look into the alibi of Candelaria "Dinding" Tantoco, a personal aide of Blanca, who claimed she was at home and did not see the actress the whole day of Nov. 6.
Tantoco, who admitted she used to drive Blanca to the casino, denied having done so on the night the actress was slain.
Tantoco claimed the last time she drove Blanca to the casino was on Oct. 23.
"I was home the whole of Nov. 6," Tantoco told Senior Superintendent Jesus Versoza, chief investigator of Task Force Marsha.
But a video footage taken by a closed circuit television at the Casino Filipino in Parañaque City on the night of the murder showed her with Blanca, plus another female and a male companion on a gaming table.
Despite inconsistencies in her testimony, Tantoco was freed after several hours of intense questioning at the CIDG headquarters at Camp Crame.
Gualberto pointed out, however, that they were not entirely ruling out other possible motives for the murder.
He refused to elaborate, saying it might jeopardize on-going investigations.
"We are still ascertaining the events that transpired from the time that Blanca and her associates filed the estafa case until the time of the murder," an investigator said.
PNP chief Director General Leandro Mendoza said earlier "there is now light at the end of the tunnel" in the probe.
The investigators revealed on Saturday that they had found two vital witnesses who gave information that could possibly lead to the early solution of the murder.
"We can say that our witnesses have given us good leads that will uncover the motive for the crime and establish the identities of the suspects," the investigators said.
Crack agents mobilized to speed up solution of the case have so far interviewed 18 people, including the victim’s relatives, associates and co-workers at the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB).
Blanca’s body was found at the back seat of her Nissan Sentra car parked at the sixth floor of the Atlanta Towers Centre in Greenhills, San Juan where the MTRCB holds offices.
Mendoza has requested the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp., operator of the Casino Filipino outlets nationwide, for copies of the security video tapes taken on Nov. 5 to 7.
Investigators theorized that Blanca was at the casino a few hours before she was attacked. They said she apparently left the casino at about midnight.
Meanwhile, police were also tracing the drivers and owners of at least 58 vehicles that entered and left the parking lots of Atlanta Centre from 5 p.m. Tuesday, the time Blanca supposedly left the building, to 8:30 a.m. Wednesday when her body was discovered inside her car.
"The security guard (of Atlanta Centre) jotted down the license plates of all the cars at the time she supposedly left the building and the time she was found dead," an investigator said.
Probers said Blanca reported for work as board member of the MTRCB the day before her corpse was found.
An examination of her remains showed she had dinner before her death.
"If she really had dinner prior to the killing, then being an actress, somebody could have had recognized her and could help identify her companions," the investigator said.
The probers were particularly interested in knowing why the security guard’s logbook showed the actress’ car left Atlanta Centre sometime on Tuesday night, but did not indicate the time it returned.
The investigators theorized that Blanca went down from the MTRCB offices at the 33rd floor to the 6th floor parking space where she was apparently picked up by her assailants.
The probers said their investigation was being focused on the five-hour time frame when she must have been killed.
"What will she do at the parking lot of Atlanta Towers for five hours? Definitely, she came out of the building, either in her car or somebody had picked her up," the source said. — With Cecille Suerte Felipe
Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi
2001 by PHILIPPINE HEADLINE NEWS
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