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Ted Failon's wife committed suicide, NBI findings show

May 21, 2009 11:14am

(Updated 2:08 p.m.) MANILA, Philippines – Trinidad Etong, wife of veteran ABS-CBN broadcaster Ted Failon, committed suicide, according to the findings of the month-long inquiry conducted by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI).

A radio dzBB report Thursday quoted NBI director Nestor Mantaring as saying that the result was based on circumstantial and testimonial evidence.

In a six-page press statement, the NBI said that ballistic results and psychiatric analysis showed that Etong – who figured in a shooting incident last April 15 inside their Quezon City home – tried killing herself. Etong was still rushed by her husband to the New Era General Hospital where she died a day later.

"Based on evidence gathered, Mrs. Etong was found to have suffered from a major depressive disorder," the NBI report said. The report also found that Etong was alone in the bathroom when the shooting happened, further bolstering claims that no foul play transpired.

Edward Villarta, NBI-National Capital Region director, said handwriting experts found that the penmanship in the “sorry" note of Etong was hers. In the note, Etong wrote down how sorry she was and scared to speak to Failon.

Doubts were raised about the authenticity of the note, which Etong reportedly wrote the night before the shooting, due to her constant use of the Filipino polite expressions “po" and “opo" – not usually observed among couples.

The victim did not specify what she was sorry for, but Failon early on indicated that it must have something to do with the family’s financial woes.

Investigators later confirmed Failon’s suspicion when a cluster head of the Metropolitan Bank and Trust Company (Metrobank) told the NBI that Etong had approached the bank in the past and confessed being embroiled in a "financial problem."

Etong then reportedly asked if the bank could issue a fake bank certificate to her, a request that Metrobank declined. It was at this time that the broadcaster’s wife was believed to begin suffering a massive depressive disorder.

The NBI said it did not bother asking the bank how much money was in question.

As agreed upon by Interior Secretary Ronaldo Puno and the National Police Commission (Napolcom), the investigation was transferred from the QCPD to the NBI last month to quell fears of a biased investigation.

Relief

In a radio interview, Failon’s legal counsel, Kristine Tiangco, expressed delight over the NBI probe result. Tiangco said Failon, her daughter Kaye Etong, and the rest of their family could already move on.

"To be frank about it, hindi niya alam kung matutuwa siya. Definitely hindi siya natutuwa kasi nag-suicide ang asawa niya. Pero siguro relief ang nararamdaman niya [Definitely Ted won't be happy because his wife committed suicide but maybe, he is relieved]," Tiangco said.

Tiangco, who belongs to a team of legal counsels assisting Failon and the rest of his household, said their camp is still studying if they would turn the tables and press charges against the QCPD operatives who used “excessive force" in the arrest at the Quezon City hospital.

Tiangco said the NBI result has just left police authorities with no more ammunition in the legal battle. "Since nag-suicide na po ito wala na silang basis to file any case of homicide or parricide."

GMANews.TV called up QCPD chief Senior Superintendent Elmo San Diego but the police official said he would rather read the NBI report first before issuing a comment.

Stop talking

Half-way into the NBI investigation, spokesman Ricardo Diaz kept telling the media that pieces of evidence gathered so far pointed to suicide as the cause of Etong’s death.

Such early pronouncement prompted Secretary Raul Gonzalez of the Department of Justice – of which the NBI is under – to order Diaz to refrain from giving initial results of the investigation and just wait for the release of the official results.

The hype on the Etong case briefly veered from the shooting to the allegedly heavy-handed approach of investigators in inviting Failon’s household and relatives for questioning.

The QCPD later filed charges of obstruction of justice against Etong’s sister Pamela Arteche and the four household members. However, the complaint was dismissed by Quezon City prosecutor Mary Jean Pamittan for lack of probable cause.

Among the pieces of evidence scrutinized by the NBI were the specimens of handwriting, as well as ballistics, forensic, and autopsy results. The probe also heavily relied on the statements of Failon – given last April 29 – and his household members, given on May 5.

Throughout the entire course of its investigation, the NBI had been in close coordination with the Quezon City police – obtaining documents from the latter and comparing notes with them.

As the NBI took over the investigation, nine QCPD officials mostly from the Criminal Investigation and Detection Unit were meanwhile meted a month-long preventive suspicion while the Napolcom checked claims of an “abusive" arrest of Failon’s kin and household.

Failon was known to give out hard-hitting commentaries against the QCPD, especially at the height of the NIA Road shooting encounter between police and a group of suspected thieves.

The QCPD claimed the incident was a shootout, while the Commission on Human Rights – through University of the Philippines forensic expert Racquel Fortun – said it was more likely a case of a rubout.

Incidentally, Fortun was one of the two private forensic experts tapped by Failon’s camp to conduct a re-autopsy on Etong. The two experts’ respective findings jibed and indicated that the shooting was self-inflicted. - GMANews.TV
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