The family of slain shopper Mario Alfie Ducayag marked his 24th birthday with a bittersweet gift.
The Cebu City Prosecutor’s Office on Monday recommended the filing of murder charges against three former store personnel held responsible for the fatal mauling of Ducayag in the security office of the Gasiano Metro Colon last April 12.
Jeffrey Aquino, the department store’s security camera operator, was identified as the one who handcuffed Ducayag and beat him up, after he was detained for allegedly shoplifting a pair of rubber sandals.
The chief security officer Mauricio Doblados Jr. and confidential intelligence officer Melvin Boyles were also charged for failing to stop the violence. (All three’s employment at the mall were terminated after the incident.)
The prosecutor’s action to file charges in court came a day before Ducayag would have marked his 24th birthday on Oct. 1.
His sister Marie Shantylle cried in front of an altar in the prosecutor’s office after learning that the men would be facing trial for murder, a non-bailable offense.
“This is a birthday gift to my brother. Our daily prayers really worked,” she told Cebu Daily News.
The case drew much controversy because of initial attempts to cover up Ducayag’s death as an accident.
The victim “was alone and clearly overpowered,” unable to put up a fight or resist blows to his body, said Assistant City Prosecutor Anna Lou Fernandez-Cavada in her resolution released yesterday.
Ducayag, a father of two, was taken into custody on suspicion of shoplifting when he couldn’t show a receipt for a pair of Sandugo brand slippers in his shopping bag.
In the bag were milk, biscuits and diapers he had bought for his children.
“(I) cannot simply comprehend that a pair of Sandugo sandals can justify the death of a person or even the infliction of physical violence against a person,” said Prosecutor Cavada.
She agreed with findings of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) that Aquino, the camera operator, inflicted the fatal blow.
Security officers Doblados and Boyles “acted in conspiracy in killing the victim” by not preventing Aquino from inflicting more blows.
“Here we now see the entire wheel where the respondents, acting as individuals cogs, were able to perpetrate the killing of Mario Alfie Ducayag.”
The prosecutor said the security officers were hired not only to protect the properties of Gaisano Metro Colon but also to protect customers in the department store.
“They (Doblados and Boyles) do not have the duty or the right to malign and hurt people or customers. Even if they believe that an individual stole from the store, their only duty is to apprehend the individual and to immediately report the person to the proper authorities,” said Prosecutor Cavada.
The three respondents have 15 days to file a motion for reconsideration.
An arrest warrant is expected to be issued after murder charges are filed in court.
Cebu City Prosecutor Nicolas Sellon approved the recommendation to file murder charges but found no reason to charge Doblados for obstruction of justice since he himself is the offender in the murder case.
Doblados, the chief security officer, earlier gave false information to the police and the NBI to cover up the mauling.
Prosecutor Sellon said he may be held liable for some other crime for allegedly forcing a store clerk to lie to the police in saying she was the one who caught the shopper stealing a pair of sandals.
“I feel happy that we’re a step closer to what we want,” the victim’s sister Marie Shantylle told CDN.
“But I can’t say that we’re very happy because this is just the tip of the iceberg. There’s a long way to go. There are still many things that will happen,” she said.
She said the family wants to see the three respondents convicted.
“Now it’s very clear that they are liable for my brother’s death. I request them to just surrender. Wherever they go, they could never escape their conscience and the Lord. They should be humble enough to face the consequences of their actions,” she said.
Ducayag’s 52-year-old mother Fe Soledad was at home in barangay Tuyan in Naga City yesterday when she heard the news.
When her daughter told her about the developments, the mother rushed to a framed photo of Ducayag and cried.
“My prayers were heard. We will continue to pray. I hope the persons who killed my son will answer for what they did. May justice come our way,” said the mother, who is taking care of Ducayag’s children aged 3 and 1 year old.
NBI investigators said Ducayag “validly purchased the sandals” but lost the receipt.
It was Ducayag who went to a cashier to ask for a replacement of the receipt. Instead, he was taken to the security office where he was handcuffed, made to a sit on a chair and beaten up.
“Whether Mario Alfie Ducayag shoplifted or not is not an issue,” said Prosecutor Cavada.
“The issue is his death. Let us not lose sight of this fact. The victim was inside the security room. He was handcuffed. He was beaten and as a result of which, he died,” she said.
The respondents performed separate actions but their individuals acts “are like cogs in a wheel which ultimately lead to the killing” of Ducayag.
According to the NBI, it was Boyles, a confidential security officer, who brought the customer to the store’s security room.
Doblados, the head of security, ordered the shopper handcuffed.
Aquino, the security camera operator, handcuffed the man and and later inflicted blows on Ducayag’s body.
Prosecutors noted that Doblados and Boyles did not stop the violence.
“They did not restrict Aquino or help the victim. Doblados and Boyles were very complacent about the actions of Aquino,” the prosecutor said.
The three men were found equally liable for Ducayag’s death which was committed with aggravating circumstances.
The victim “was alone and clearly overpowered.