MANILA, OCTOBER 11, 2003 (STAR) A US district judge is set to decide next week on the extradition of American Rod Strunk to the Philippines to face charges for the killing of his wife, actress Nida Blanca.

This is the latest information received by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) from the US prosecutor handling the extradition proceeding against Strunk.

"We heard the judge will decide the extradition by Oct. 17," a source from the NBI said.

Sacramento District of California Judge Gregory Hallows of Branch 24 is handling the extradition of Strunk on request of the Philippine government so he can face murder charges against him for killing Blanca, Dorothy Jones in real life.

The NBI has tagged Strunk as the mastermind in the murder of Blanca after the actress decided to disinherit him.

Blanca was found dead inside her car parked at the sixth floor of Atlanta Center in San Juan last Nov. 7, 2001. The multi-awarded actress had 13 stab wounds.

Follow-up operations led to the arrest of Philip Medel Jr., who admitted killing Blanca on instruction of Strunk.

However, Medel later recanted and claimed police tortured him into admitting to the slay. – Cecille Suerte Felipe

Crime against their own  By Sec. Jose D. Lina,  Department of Interior and Local Government (Star)

It was a beautiful April morning, and the summer breeze seemed to beckon 26-year-old Iligan native Johaira Tucalo for a walk. Along with friend Norfia Salic, 23, of Marawi City, the Maranaoans decided to take a stroll along Roxas Boulevard before going to their stall at a commercial establishment nearby. It was only 7 a.m., and people would not be coming in yet to buy jewelry from them.

The two were enjoying their leisurely walk when out of the blue, a man and a woman in police uniform with five others approached them as they neared a fastfood chain in the area. At gunpoint, the hapless women were dragged inside a waiting white taxi, which later sped off. Another vehicle carrying the other unidentified men trailed behind.

Confused and terrified, Johaira and Norfia could not do anything but ask, "Sino ba kayo? Ano ba ang kailangan ninyo sa amin (Who are you people! What do you want from us?)"

Their queries were answered with a frightening grin. They were cautioned to keep silent, or they would never see their loved ones again.

Too weak to fight the assailants, Johaira and Norfia shrewdly kept track of the places where they were taken. They noticed that they were heading toward Valenzuela City, in Malinta, where their abductors first brought them. Changing their minds, the kidnappers instead transferred the women to their safehouse on Cantillon street, Maysan, also in Valenzuela. There, Norfia and Johaira finally discovered their abductors’ plan.

"Papatayin namin kayo kapag hindi nag-produce ang pamilya ninyo ng P70,000! Tawagan ninyo sila ngayon na para sabihin na hawak namin kayo (We will kill you if your families don’t produce P70,000! Go on, call them right now to tell them that we’ve kidnapped you)," ordered one of the kidnappers to the two women.

Although they were able to contact their respective families, the latter informed the kidnappers they could not raise that huge amount. The next day April 10, the kidnappers reduced the amount to P50,000 and the families of the victims promised that they would produce the ransom right away.

As if their ordeal was not enough, the kidnappers subjected the two to lascivious acts.

"Bakit n’yo ba ginagawa ito sa amin! Ang sasama n’yo! Mga hayop! (Why are you doing this to us! You are all evil! You are all animals!)," they would often cry out.

During their captivity, the two realized that their kidnappers were Muslims themselves, and the kidnap was already planned after watching the women’s routine several days before the abduction.

Johaira then took matters into her hands. While the kidnappers guarding them were getting drunk, Johaira escaped through the backdoor, forcibly kicking it until she managed to sneak out. The noise created by Johaira alerted one of the residents living nearby, who saw her struggling to escape by boarding a cab. This prompted the concerned citizen to dial 117.

The information from 117 was received by the Valenzuela City Police station at about 5:30 in the morning of April 13. While preparing for the rescue of the victims, the police station received a surprise visit from a very terrified Johaira.

"She arrived here at about 6 a.m., shaking in fear while narrating their three-day ordeal. She confirmed the location tipped by the 117 caller, and accompanied the seven-man SWAT team I had dispatched to rescue Norfia and arrest the kidnappers," said Superintendent Jose Marcelo, Valenzuela City police chief.

The SWAT team managed to get inside the safehouse through the backdoor used by Johaira. "We saw Norfia, with hands still tied up, sleeping. The kidnappers, who were also asleep, were caught by surprise when we seized them," stated Marcelo.

The abductors were identified as Norodin Odin, 23, of Davao City; Bencer Welao, 19, of Cotabato City; Jeffrey Maragiar, 19, also of Cotabato City; and Berna Edres, 20; of Cantillon Street, Maysan, Valenzuela City. They were immediately brought to the Valenzuela City Police Station for investigation. The police learned that it was the first time they committed such a crime. The four kidnappers are currently detained at the Valenzuela City Jail facing kidnapping charges.

The families of Johaira and Norfia were immediately contacted. They could not believe that the nightmare was finally over, with no single centavo paid out. Both Norfia and Johaira are now back in their respective provinces to start their lives anew.

"They are very grateful to us and 117 for helping them. Perhaps they haven’t recovered from the traumatic experience so they decided to go home. But they know they would still be able to get back on their feet and continue their lives," Marcelo said.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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