DAVAO CITY — Police said they are investigating five persons of interest in connection with last week’s rape and murder of a young female architect here that has prompted widespread condemnation and an offer of a P1 million bounty by Davao 1st District Rep. Paolo Duterte.
Davao region police spokesperson Lt. Col. Eudisan Gultiano said investigators are now backtracking the route of the bao-bao or ombak, a local name for a type of pedicab common in rural areas in the city, on which Vlanche Marie Bragas was last seen riding in before her body was discovered in a ditch at a banana plantation in Dacudao village, Calinan district on May 17.
Gultiano, also the spokesperson of special investigation task group (SITG) Bragas, declined to elaborate why the five unnamed individuals are considered as persons of interest “so as not to preempt the investigation.”
READ: Female architect found dead in Davao banana plantation
Authorities are also looking for a passenger who was seen on close circuit television (CCTV) footage getting on the tricycle in the vicinity of Teachers’ Village, Calinan, Gultiano said. The passenger got off near a fast food outlet at around 10:35 p.m. on May 16. A minute or two later, Bragas was seen boarding the yellow pedicab.
“Therefore, there are possibilities the passenger may have identified the looks of the driver. Perhaps that passenger could help us identify (and) at least come up with a physical description of the driver,” Gultiano said.
The police spokesperson appealed to the still unknown passenger to come forward and help provide information with the assurance of protection.
Bragas, a newly-minted architect and a resident of Purok 18, Megaville, Calinan, was last seen boarding a yellow ombak at Crossing Fausta, Calinan district on May 16 and was reported missing by 12:30 a.m. the next day.
READ: Colleagues call for justice for slain Davao female architect
Eight hours later, her body was discovered under dried banana fronds in a ditch at a banana plantation at Purok 6, Dacudao village, also in Calinan.
The victim had been raped and then strangled to death, according to Davao City police spokesperson Maj. Catherine dela Rey, citing an autopsy report by the regional forensic unit 11.
Duterte said he was saddened by the death of Bragas, “an ordinary Dabawenyo who had strived to give herself and her family a great future.”
Duterte said he joins the whole of Davao in seeking justice for the young architect, and offered the bounty for the swift resolution of the case.
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Gultiano said she is hopeful the bounty would spur possible witnesses to come out. She admitted that investigators are facing a difficult task.
Probers have relied heavily on CCTV footage gathered along the route of the vehicle the victim had ridden on the night before she was found dead, and most of these shots were not of good quality, Gultiano noted.
Police are also coordinating with the city traffic office for the possible inventory of all bao-bao pedicabs in the city, particularly those vehicles of modern make and are painted yellow, she added.
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