His arms crossed and in a pensive mood, 40-year-old Jonathan “Jojo” Marfe shook his head when asked if he was the one who abducted and raped a four-month-old baby girl in Barangay Perrelos, Carcar City in southern Cebu predawn on Thursday.
“Naay Ginoo, saksi siya kung asa ug nag-unsa ko sa pagkahitabo (There is a God. He is my witness, where I was and what I was doing when the incident happened),” said Marfe in a very low voice when interviewed in his detention cell at the Carcar City Police Station yesterday.
Marfe insisted he was innocent of the accusations hurled against him; but a blood-stained carton, inconsistent statements, a shirt, jogging pants and some cuts in his knees may have put him in trouble too deep to overcome.
Marfe was arrested yesterday afternoon as the prime suspect in the abduction and rape of the infant in Sitio Bas, Barangay Perrelos of Carcar, a city 48 kilometers south of Cebu City.
A charge for statutory rape will be filed against him on Monday, said PO3 Vivian Tamayo of Carcar police’s Women and Children’s Protection Desk.
“We have testimonial and material evidence pointing at him as the culprit,” said Tamayo.
The suspect also has a history of sexually assaulting minors.
“In 2009, he was charged with attempted rape in Bohol. The victim was a 10-year-old niece of his wife. The case was settled amicably,” said Tamayo.
Marfe is a native of Catigbian, Bohol. He arrived in Carcar only two days before the crime happened, along with his live-in partner who is a native of Perrelos.
Police investigation showed that the infant was taken while she was sleeping with her mother and three sisters. The victim is the youngest in a brood of nine.
Chief Insp. Jose Liddawa, Carcar police chief, said they also found out that Marfe was unemployed and a suspected drug user.
“Meron tayong witness. Hindi naman nakita kinuha ’yung bata pero siya lang ’yung pumasok sa bahay,” Liddawa said.
(We have a witness. Although Marfe was not seen abducting the child, he was the only one who went inside the house of the victim.)
Liddawa said a witness saw Marfe go inside the baby’s house shortly before midnight on Wednesday.
The house, he said, was unsecured, with only curtains serving as door since the house was under construction.
The infant’s older brother Leo (not his real name) told Cebu Daily News that his mother sold “puto” (rice cake) the whole day and may have been too tired that she failed to notice that someone barged into their room and took his sister.
The victim’s house stood on a slope surrounded by bushes and trees. The room was located in the same area of the house’s terrace. A less than a meter piece of plywood and a curtain was used to cover the room’s door as the house was under construction.
Leo said one of their neighbors heard a baby crying past 1 a.m. last Thursday. The baby was found in a secluded area about 100 meters from the infant’s house.
Leo said the neighbor didn’t pick the baby up for fear that it was something else. But another neighbor recognized his baby sister and rushed to their house.
Leo said their mother ran to the grassy area and immediately grabbed the baby.
“My mother noticed that the private parts of my sister were bleeding and she was no longer wearing a diaper,” Leo said.
The baby was later brought to the Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center in Cebu City.
PO3 Camia Codo, also of the Carcar City police’s women’s desk, said the physicians later concluded that the blood found on the infant was caused by the lacerations in her sex organ, which indicated that she had been raped. The baby’s diaper and a bottle of coconut wine were found near the baby.
The police were waiting for the result of the saliva swab taken from Marfe to check if it matched with the samples taken from the bottle of coconut wine.
Early yesterday morning, Carcar policemen invited seven men, including Marfe and even the baby’s father, as “persons of interest” but allowed all of them to go home after some interrogation.
Upon further investigation, however, police zeroed in on Marfe, prompting them to return to Barangay Perrelos and arrest the Boholano, who at that time was in a middle of a drinking session at a neighbor’s house.
Marfe insisted he was asleep in his partner’s house when the police came, roused him from sleep and arrested him.
But the police caught Marfe lying several times.
“He was asked what he was wearing on the day that the incident happened. He said he wore a red shirt and camouflage short at the time. But his friends, whom he had a drinking session, said he was wearing a red shirt and green jogging pants,” said Tamayo.
Tamayo said Marfe insisted he did not own a red shirt and green jogging pants. But when police searched his house, they found a red shirt and green jogging pants there. A carton with blood stains was also found in the house.
“The Soco (Scene of the Crime Operatives) will conduct an examination to check if the stains of blood found in the carton matches to that of the girl,” said Tamayo.
Tamayo added that Marfe at first claimed he was with his live-in partner during the time when the baby’s abduction and molestation happened, but he later admitted his partner didn’t sleep in their house that night as they had a misunderstanding.
Tamayo added that someone also saw Marfe walking towards the direction of the victim’s house before the child was found.
“He regularly fetched water from a well near the victim’s house. No one noticed when the child was taken since even the dogs didn’t bark because he was (already) a familiar face in the area,” said Tamayo.
Leo said he was able to talk to Marfe at the police station.
“Ako siya giingnan na kung dili man gani siya ang sad-an, migo gihapon mi. Ni-apir siya nako. Pero kung siya ang sad-an, ako siya giingnan pasensya na lang (I told him that if he is innocent, we will remain as friends. He gave me a high five. I also told him that if proven that he is behind the incident, he should face the consequences. He then shook his head),” said Leo.
“Suko kaayo mi niya. Pero ang balaod na lang bahala niya (We are very angry at him but we will leave it to the authorities),” said Leo.
Marfe, on the other hand, said he could not have done the crime as he also has a 10-year-old daughter.
“Wa na koy mabuhat kay ako man ang gitudlo kuno. Maayo unta kung mu-surrender ang tinuod na sad-an kay di maayo na naay napriso tungod sa binuhatan sa uban (I cannot do anything because someone allegedly pointed at me as the culprit. I hope the real culprit surrenders because it is unfair that someone is jailed for the other’s mistake,” said Marfe, who has four children living in Bohol.
Marfe is living with another woman after separating with his wife six years ago.
He said it was his friend Dolfo Misa who brought him to Carcar to harvest coconut fruits./With a report from Nestle L. Semilla