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Suspect: I'm innocent, and APO has no motive to bomb Bar exam

October 29, 2010 12:38am
The suspect in the Sept. 26 Bar exam explosion again vehemently denied his involvement in the crime, this time appearing and speaking in person, in an exclusive interview with GMA News’ Susan Enriquez.

In her report, aired over “24 oras" on Thursday evening, Enriquez said “sorrow and anxiety were clearly etched into the face" of the 26-year-old Anthony Leal Nepomuceno, a call center agent, whom the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) has tagged as the main suspect in the blast at the De La Salle University campus where the Bar examinations were being held this year.

The NBI on Thursday filed charges of multiple frustrated murder and multiple attempted murder against Nepomuceno, who they accuse of exploding a grenade in the middle of the traditional Salubong crowd on the last day of the Bar exams, wherein well-wishers, law students, and relatives greet examinees after taking the test.

At least 47 people, including San Sebastian College law student Raissa Laurel who lost her legs, were injured in the explosion in front of the DLSU on the last Sunday of the four-weekend Bar exams.

In the interview, Nepomuceno reiterated his innocence, saying that his fraternity, the Alpha Phi Omega (APO), had “no motivation" to cause a blast during the exams, since it is a “service fraternity" and did not have enemies among those who were wounded by the blast.

Ang mga nasabugan naman po doon ay hindi naman namin kalaban, bakit ba namin gagawin iyon? (Those who were wounded in the blast were not our enemies, so why would we do that?)," Nepomuceno said, adding that APO had no motive to cause the explosion.

Kasi alam po ng Diyos, at alam ng mga magulang po, at naniniwala ang APO na wala po akong kasalanan," Nepomuceno said. (God knows, and my parents know, and the APO believes, that I am innocent.)

At one point during the interview, Enriquez motioned to the suspect, who was choked by tears, to take his time.

Nepomuceno also told Enriquez that he was forced to approach Vice President Binay, a fraternity “brod" in APO, to ask for help, since his family is emotionally disturbed by the events.

He said he that he had voluntarily surrendered to his fraternity brods, Binay and former Justice Secretary Silvestre Bello III, in order to clear his name.

Saying that he has since been forced to resign from his job, Nepomuceno said that he is hopeful that the probe of his alleged participation will help advance the investigation into “the ones who are actually behind" the blast.

Nananawagan po kami sa lahat ng may video na kumuha ng bar ops, sana po ilabas niyo ang mga ito," the suspect said. (We are making a plea to all those who took video shots during the bar ops, we hope you bring them into the open.)

Raps filed

With the authorities having filed charges against Nepomuceno, the state prosecutor was set to schedule a preliminary investigation, the NBI said. (See: NBI files frustrated murder raps vs Bar exam blast suspect)

In a separate interview with Julius Segovia, NBI Director Magtanggol Gatdula said that aside from Nepomuceno, there are other people being investigated.

Nepomuceno was tagged by one of of four “vital" witnesses who allegedly chased the suspect right after the bombing, Gatdula said.

Right from the start, both the police and the NBI have been looking at the “fraternity angle" to the bar exam blast.

But in his interview with Enriquez, Nepomuceno claimed that he was not even at the site of the blast. The day of the blast, Sunday, was also his day off and that he was at home with his parents, the suspect claimed.

Kasi po that four weeks na bar operations po, hinding-hindi po ako pumunta doon (Those four weeks of bar operations, I never went there), I assure you," he said.

Frat war?

It remains unclear whether the grenade-throwing on the last day of the exams was caused by a fraternity war.

However, Justice Secretary Leila De Lima on Wednesday said a frat war is “one of the most possible motives, but with a little twist."

She added that the investigation will spare no sacred cows even if the suspect is part of a high-profile fraternity.

Police also said they are studying a possible connection between the Sept. 26 blast and the earlier killing of an APO member in 2009.

In December 2009, a CCTV camera captured a fraternity rumble and the fatal stabbing of Cromwell Dukha Jr., a member of the APO fraternity. The principal suspect in the killing, Efraim Lim, is a member of the Tau Gamma Phi fraternity.

Both were students of the San Sebastian College, but Lim was expelled after the killing, and the case is still being heard.

GMA news sources say that this incident is one of those being probed by police as a possible root cause that led to the bar blast.

APO forms legal team

The APO, meanwhile, has already formed a legal team to help in Nepomuceno’s defense.

In a separate interview with GMA News, APO National President Mel Adriano pointed out that Nepomuceno’s explanation — that he was not at the site of the bombing and that he was with his parents on the day of the bombing — was bolstered by the fact that he made an ATM withdrawal on that same time and day of the bombing “somewhere in the Riverbanks area."

APO officials also said that their brod had no reason to go to the Bar ops because he was not studying to be a lawyer.

They also claimed that he was just implicated because of the P1.2 million reward that a group offered for any information that could lead to the arrest of those responsible for the blast.

Binay facilitates

On Wednesday, Vice President Binay had facilitated Nepomuceno's surrender, saying that he did this because they belong to the same fraternity.

"I called the Vice-President and he told me that he will try to ask his fraternity and see what he can do to help," De Lima said at a news briefing.

She claimed that she was surprised to learn from Binay that their group would turn over Nepomuceno to authorities.

De Lima also said she will ask the NBI to determine whether members of the APO fraternity had coddled the suspect before he surrendered to Binay.

P1.2 million reward

On October 3, the Fraternal Order of Utopia, an Ateneo School of Law fraternity, offered a P200,000 reward for information leading to the identification and arrest of the perpetrators of the explosion. (See: Ateneo's Utopia offers P200K for DLSU blast)

Utopia president Tony Bernardo said the reward "will help speed up the investigation," adding that the money was contributed by Utopia members.

On October 4, a group of businessmen also offered a P1-million reward for information about the suspects in the explosion.

NBI Director Magtanggol Gatdula told reporters, “that a group of businessmen is offering a P1-million reward." Gatdula, however, declined to identify the group of businessmen.

Artist's sketch

On October 19, the NBI released the artist's sketch of one of the suspects in the Bar exam blast. (See: NBI releases artist's sketch of Bar exam blast suspect)

The details included in the sketch described the suspect as:
  • a 20 to 25-year-old male;
  • of medium build;
  • 5'6'' to 5'7" in height, and
  • weighs between 60 to 65 kilograms.
The details also provided clues that the suspect wore "long pants, maong; T-shirt, dark polo and low cut sneakers" when the incident occurred.—DM/JV, GMANews.TV
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