Murder charges filed vs. 17-year-old suspect in Cebu teen slay

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Cebu City (CNN Philippines, March 19) — The National Bureau of Investigation in Central Visayas (NBI-7) has filed murder charges against the 17-year-old suspect in the brutal killing of a student in Cebu.

The murder case filed Monday was based on the Anti-Cybercrime Act of 2012 since most of the exchanges between the suspect and 16-year-old victim Christine Silawan were done on Facebook Messenger. It is believed that the suspect was the victim's former boyfriend.

Authorities said there are at least 11 different security videos showing Silawan and the suspect together on the night of March 10, hours before the discovery of her body in Barangay Bangkal in Lapu-Lapu City. In the morning of March 11, Silawan was found lifeless in a vacant lot. Her face was skinned, exposing her skull, and she was naked waist down.

"Yung last time na nacaptured silang magkasama ay hanggang 6:38 in the evening at 'yun ay naglalakad sila going to the direction of the vacant lot where the body of Christine was found," NBI-7 Regional Director Tomas Enrile told CNN Philippines Tuesday.

"Ang estimated time of killing, per our medicolegal doctor, was probably committed between 6 and 7 p.m. So yung time interval, malapit na malapit dun sa nacapture na last time silang magkasama doon sa time nung killing kaya napakalakas po ng circumstantial evidence po natin," Enrile added.

NBI agents anchored the complaint on circumstantial evidence including text and online messages between the victim and the suspect. They did not include the supposed confession made by the suspect, since he was a minor and had no legal counsel at the time.

The suspect was arrested in his home in Barangay Maribago, roughly a 21-minute drive from the crime scene, on March 16. He is now under the custody of the Department of Social Welfare and Development. No weapons used in the killing were seized from the house of the suspect.

NBI officials said the motive could be "extreme jealousy" and the case can be considered a crime of passion.

NBI-7 deputy director Dominador Cimafranca said there is a follow-up operation as they believe the suspect could have cohorts. He said the manner of killing led them to believe the suspect could not have done it alone.

Medico-legal officer Superintendent Benjamin Lara said aside from her face being skinned, the right side of Silawan's neck was gone, and other parts like trachea, esophagus, and tongue are all missing. Lara, who examined the victim's cadaver, noted the murder was "carefully and meticulously done."

The Philippine National Police (PNP) considers the case "solved but not yet closed" as it is looking for two other possible suspects.

Silawan's mother, Lourdes, said the arrested suspect is the perpetrator but hoped his cohorts will be arrested as well.

She admitted that she has not met the suspect before even as authorities said he was her daughter's boyfriend. "It was the first time I saw him," she said, noting that her daughter does not usually share her love life.