“What can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence.” Christopher Hitchens
By Alex P. Vidal
IN case of doubt, you acquit!
Judge Globert Justalero of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 32 acquitted the Tan brothers—Archie and Jan Michael—in the massacre of their father, Franciso “Bobby” Tan, wife Cynthia Marie and daughter Catherine, 5, exactly nine years after the grisly crime was committed inside their bungalow in Molo district, Iloilo City.
The day after the massacre occurred on January 8, 2006, I remember receiving a text message from First Gentleman Mike Arroyo, who wanted to confirm the report. (Atty. Arroyo got my number from Passi City Mayor Jesry Palmares earlier when the former wanted to air his side regarding accusation that he stayed on a $5,000/per night room at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas when Manny Pacquiao lost to Erik Morales on March 19, 2005.)
Mr. Arroyo wanted to know the following:
- How many were killed?
- Who was/were the suspect/suspects?
- Were the police able to arrest the suspect/suspects?
I only heard the news on a radio “flash” report, thus I could not provide all the answers except to text back “yes, there was a massacre here in Iloilo City and it involved a popular Tsinoy businessman and his family.”
Mr. Arroyo apparently knew Bobby Tan, a fellow cockfighting aficionado and Cynthia Marie’s family in Kabankalan, Negros Occidental.
Cynthia Marie was a member of the wealthy Zayco clan, which brought the couple’s five other children living in the same house to Negros for safety.
Police pointed to the Tan brothers as the suspects in the carnage.
No other set of suspects had been charge along with the brothers.
Several months later, when police filed criminal cases against then 23-year-old Archie and 19-year-old Jan Michael and the court issued a warrant for their arrest, they went into hiding and believed to have slipped out of the country.
Conchita Tan, the brothers’ grandmother and mother of Bobby, denied the report that they fled the country, but did not hide “all-out” support for her embattled grandsons.
The Tan matriarch did not believe from the start that her grandsons murdered their own father, their mother-in-law, and sister-in-law.
Conchita hired Manila-based lawyer Sigfred Fortun to back up Iloilo-based lawyer Hans Sayno for the defense team.
Archie and Jan Michael surfaced and were allowed to post bail.
According to Justalero, the prosecutors failed to establish the Tan brothers guilt beyond reasonable doubt.
He ruled: “The People’s evidence fail(ed) to prove indubitably the accused’s authorship of the crime…it is the Court’s duty – and the accused’s right – to proclaim their innocence.”
The prosecution, which presented several witnesses, including the house security guards, failed to establish who among the two accused first attacked and stabbed the victims; who were the first and second killed; if there were two perpetrators, did they commit the crime simultaneously?, among other questions.
The Tan brothers insisted they were out in a bar when the crime happened somewhere between 11 o’clock in the evening of January 8 to 2 o’clock in the morning of January 9.
They actually sneaked out of the house and did not inform the guard on duty.
They discovered the crime when they went back at around past 3 o’clock in the morning.
All the victims had fatal multiple stab wounds.
Police had ruled out any possibility that the attackers could be robbers, insisting there was no sign of forcible entry.
The big house had a security guard, who was roused from sleep when the brothers informed him that the victims’ lifeless bodies had been found inside the living rooms upstairs.
Many Ilonggos claim it’s a common knowledge who were the culprits.
Even in the neighborhood, people shocked by the massacre, have the same suspect or suspects.
They theorized the murderer or murderers could be already inside the house, which is protected by tall concrete walls and a gate with a guard post.
Some lawyers say a court trial—particularly in criminal cases—is not about the truth, but about evidence.
They are probably saying that he who lacks evidence loses the cases even if truth is on his side.