BY ALEX P. VIDAL
WHEN 24-year-old Evangeline “Vangie” Villan of Brgy. Caingin, La Paz, Iloilo City became my regular visitor at Sun Star editorial office sometime in 1997, our late former editor-in-chief, Ivan Suansing, became suspicious.
She would show up in the office at past five o’clock in the afternoon to bring me Glor’s hamburger and Coke in can, disappear after several minutes, and return after several hours. And stay — until told to go home like a Manila Zoo food attendant doing an overtime, but would obey without any grumbling.
Ivan and I usually played blitz chess inside the office while our reporters — Ednalyn Belonio, Ruby Silubrico, and Lorelie Panis — were encoding their stories. Nelson Robles, editor of Super Balita, Sun Star’s Hiligaynon sister publication, was always out and would spot Villan waiting in a canteen downstairs.
Villan was a cellular phone dealer whose “clients” included then Narcotics Command (Narcom) director, Chief Inspector Wilfredo Reyes and former Police Pricinct 1 (PPI) director, Chief Inspector Ricardo Jomuad.
We first met months earlier at the PPI when I interviewed two inmates, a male and a female (names withheld because one of them is a Facebook friend), arrested earlier in a shabu buy-bust operation. Through police reporter Ruby Silurico, the female detainee requested that I go to the police station myself to do the interview to confirm the veracity of their allegation of police brutality (police had laughed off this allegation and called it a “diversionary tactic”).
Villan was at the PPI purportedly “to book a theft incident” involving their store which had been ransacked. She claimed she always read my articles “and I am glad that I finally saw you in person…”
This meeting happened several weeks after Reyes, who was also Belonio’s regular visitor at Sun Star, had been charged with drug trafficking by the Regional Presidential Task Group on Intelligence and Counter-intellligence headed by Maj. Jonas Sumagaysay. This was a major news at that time; imagine, the regional boss of a police agency tasked to run after illegal drugs accused of being a drug trafficker?
Ivan didn’t trust my regular visitor. Publisher Marcos Villalon didn’t give a damn, but ordered to secure our back issues and other files located in the waiting area.
Villan would bring me chocolates, CDs, t-shirts, among other items, and invite me for a “walk outside.” She once confided in Hiligaynon that “I have special feelings for you. Please don’t get mad at me. I may not have the opportunity to express this. I have something to confess, sir.” I refused several times; I was busy with my press work. Gossipers in the marketing department, including then Tigbauan vice mayor Jesse Terre, had suspected a romantic liaison between us because they would bump into Villan in the stairs as they went home, while Villan was coming in. Terre took fancy of her one time and was flatly rebuked.
Were Villan’s actuations really motivated by love? I was in doubt. Was she a spy? I had reason to believe so. It was highly suspicious for a 24-year-old woman to shower a man she met only once with gifts and give him attention like a long lost sweetheart while his officemates were watching — and gossiping.
Weeks later, on July 26, 2007, Villan was found dead at Brgy. Malusgod, Pototan town, 34 kilometers away from Iloilo City. She had no more arms and legs, her body bore a sign of torture. Dr. Owen Lebaquin, Camp Delgado medico-legal expert, who autopsied the body, said she died when the back of her head had been struck with a hard object. She was not raped. Investigators led by Pototan police chief, Insp. Khasmer Desumangkop, said Villan could have been eliminated by a drug syndicate. No arrest was made.
I could not believe the woman who had professed her “love” to me weeks back was now gone and became the subject of news I was writing.
When police gave me several file photos of Villan smiling “during her leaner and more attractive days,” as the caption screams, I had goose pimples.
Villan’s murder has remained unsolved after 14 years.