By Patricia Evangelista Philippine Daily Inquirer First Posted 22:41:00 08/28/2010
MANILA, Philippines—The arrested man had the face of a killer. Shifting eyes, tangled hair, cheeks so thin the bones sliced sharp against skin. At the time of his incarceration, he was the father of nine, with one more on the way.
His name is Danilo D. Jomoc Sr., born 47 years ago to a farmer and his wife in Inopacan, Leyte. His education includes several years in Macagoco Elementary School, and not much else. In 1989, he applied for an opening in Agila Gas, a fuel trucking business owned by a man named Leonardo Tioseco.
When Tioseco died in 2007, his son Alexis took over, the only child left in the Philippines after the family immigrated to Canada. Jomoc had known Alexis since he was 15.
At four in the afternoon of Sept. 5, 2009, the man with the face of a killer was arrested for the double murder of Alexis and his girlfriend Nika Bohinc.
* * *
Manang has worked for the Tioseco family for more than five years, first for Alexis’ father, then for Alexis, the boy she calls her almost-son.
They had blindfolded her, she says. There were three men that Criselda let in. She says she never suspected Criselda. The woman was a good cleaner.
She keeps a photo of Alexis on the dresser inside her room. He has his arm around her in the photo. She brings the photo to the living room. This is him, she says. This is me.
Conversations with Mina are peppered with stories of Alexis. How, whenever he went to Canada for the holidays, he would call just to wish her Merry Christmas. How he would order enormous pizzas, and would share slices with her even when she lectured him on cholesterol. How whenever he walked into the house with a friend, any of the troop of filmmakers and writers and artists he gathered around himself, he would call her to the front door and introduce her. “Manang, this is Kiri,” he would say. This is Erwin. This is Quark. This is John. And finally, proudly, “Manang, this is Nika.”
* * *
He mumbles when he speaks. His fingers pluck at a loose thread on rough black pants.
Jomoc has a secret.
In 2007, Alexis had just taken over the management of Agila. Alexis was a film critic, a professor, a writer, far more interested in discussing the need for the establishment of a National Film and Sound Archive and the relative talents of Viva Hot Babes than the rise in fuel rates and trucking toll fees. He worked from the safe distance of the second floor of his Times Street home, signing checks and passing them to his foreman across a sprawling wood table he had brought up for the precise purpose of signing checks. Once, twice a month, he would drive to the Agila offices in Taguig.
On one of those rare days, Jomoc spoke to “Ser Alexis.” He asked if he could advance P10,000 from his trucking salary, to pay for his eldest’s college tuition. His son was an intelligent boy, Jomoc told his boss. His boy had a scholarship, but the fund’s release had been delayed. Jomoc promised to pay, and pay soon.
Alexis refused. Instead, he offered Jomoc the P10,000 from his own pocket. A gift, said Alexis. Take it.
He asked about the other children. Was there anyone else, any other child with potential? Jomoc spoke of another boy, in elementary school.
What does he like? Bikes? Here, buy him a new bike. Tell him it’s because he’s a smart boy, that he should study harder.
Jomoc refused the bicycle money. He said his son already had a bike, and that he, Jomoc, couldn’t accept any more.
Alexis insisted; Jomoc resisted. The trucker won.
Jomoc promised his boss never to tell.
* * *
The police did not have body bags. They used bed sheets from Alexis’ bedroom.
Investigators stepped around his body. There were bloody skid marks on the white tile floor. At three in the morning, hours after the murders, Manang wandered into the kitchen. She told witnesses she wanted to make sure the food wouldn’t go bad. She walked up to the plastic rice bin, picked it up, and tried to open the refrigerator door.
She couldn’t. Alexis’ body was in the way.
The police did not stop her.
They said it was all right. After all, they had already taken pictures.
Manang does not remember the incident.
* * *
In Taguig, policemen went through Jomoc’s locker. They went through his truck. They said they were looking for a laptop. They took Jomoc’s cell phone and a new scythe he had bought to cut through grass.
They had already picked up his wife. Jomoc says it was to make certain he went along.
In Camp Karingal, they asked him where his associates were. They showed him a cartographic sketch. They asked him, does this man look like you?
He said it did, a little. Only the cheeks seemed bigger. And the hair was shorter.
“See,” they said. “See, you even admitted it.”
* * *
The day of Alexis’ funeral, the Quezon City Police Department called the Tioseco sisters.
“They informed us that they had our driver Jomoc in custody and that they had an eyewitness placing him.”
The policemen demanded they press charges.
“They said if we didn’t do it, it would look like we don’t care about our brother.”
The two girls were in tears, but they refused to press charges.
* * *
The policemen asked Jomoc to stand in front of tinted glass. They told him to face left. They told him to face the wall.
They said the witness had identified him. 100 percent.
Jomoc told the police the accusations were impossible. He was in Batangas hauling gas, he said.
“What if we find your fingerprints in the car?”
The Tioseco family tried to stop his arraignment. They said he had an alibi. They had the receipts, the testimonies of the mechanic who fixed his broken truck and the Agila manager who was in contact with him.
They were unsuccessful. Jomoc went to jail.
* * *
Nine months after the murders on Times Street, eight houses down from the home of the President of the Philippines, a resolution:
“Considering the foregoing, the complaint against respondent Danilo Jomoc is dismissed for lack of probable cause to hold him for trial for the crime committed against the victims herein.
* * *
The arrested man had the face of a killer. Shifting eyes, tangled hair, cheeks so thin the bones sliced sharp against skin. At the time of his incarceration, he was the father of nine, with one more on the way.
Now his wife is dead from meningitis. He owes Agila more than P20,000 in loans for her treatment. His last child was born four months premature. And the police still have his cell phone.
He rubs at his pant leg.
His name is Danilo D. Jomoc Sr. Because there were men who thought he had the face of a killer, the real killers walk in the open one year later, wearing the last faces Jomoc’s Ser Alexis saw.