It had been Jezreel Tahanlangit Higida’s usual routine to wake up before 6 a.m. so she could walk three kilometers from her home to the Bulasa National High School in Barangay Bulasa, Argao town in southern Cebu.
The 15-year-old Higida didn’t worry about passing by a long, secluded, grassy area by her lonesome since she had been doing it so many times. Yesterday, though, she never made it to her classes.
Higida, a Grade 7 student, was found dead in that same secluded, grassy area in Sitio Tiposo in Barangay Bulasa by her relatives at past noon yesterday, Argao Police Chief Senior Insp. William Homoc said.
Her suspected killers were arrested about five hours later, at past 5 p.m. yesterday.
One of the three suspects, 41-year-old Roweno Saraosos, alleged that he saw his two companions rape and kill the girl.
SPO2 Meliton Agadier Jr. of Argao Police said murder charges will be filed against Raymond Mansueto Albuera, 22; Elmo Judilla Relativo, 24.
If autopsy results showed the victim had been raped, Agadier said the charges against Relativo and Albuera will be elevated to rape with homicide.
Agadier also said that even if Saorosos is tapped as a witness, he can still be charged for failing to help Higida.
All three suspects were detained at the Argao police station as of last night.
Higida still wore her school uniform, a navy blue plaid skirt and white top, when her remains were discovered.
She bore bruises on her face that indicated that she was struck by a hard object by her assailants, Homoc said.
“Her hands were on her face (in a crisscross position), suggesting that she tried to protect herself,” Homoc told Cebu Daily News by phone.
He said there were lacerations on her private parts but an examination had to be done to verify if she was raped.
A rock, stained with blood and bigger than a human head, was also brought to the Argao police precinct. Homoc said they suspect it was used to hit Higida’s face first.
Homoc said the incident was reported to them at past noon, about six hours after it occurred.
“The place is isolated with no houses nearby. It was possible that someone picked on her, then killed her and left her for dead,” he said.
Higida’s teacher said she found it unusual that the victim failed to attend classes that day because she was a very hardworking student who had never been absent.
Homoc said residents living a few meters from the crime scene did not hear any screams for help.
But they reported to police that three men were seen walking around the area.
The men, who were identified as suspects Albuera, Relativo, and Saraosos, are all residents in the area.
SP04 Esteban Albuera, Argao deputy police chief, said they first picked up Raymond Albuera who lived near the area where the girl was killed.
He said Albuera had scratches on his face but he denied touching the girl. Albuera claimed that he got the scratches while collecting bamboo in the neighborhood.
He said Albuera squealed on Relativo, a farmer, and his neighbor Saraosos, a fisherman, accusing them of committing the crime.
“Wa gyod ko magdahom nga mahimo na niya (I never expected that he would do that),” said barangay tanod Michael Relativo of his cousin Elmo.
Homoc said they were assessing whether to tap Saraosos as a witness after he claimed to have seen his two cohorts taking turns raping Higida and then killing her.
“He said he never raped the girl. Saorosos alleged that it was Relativo who struck the child’s head with a stone,” Homoc said.
But Relativo denied hitting the girl. Albuera, reportedly Higida’s relative, could not answer the queries properly.
Murder charges will be filed against Relativo and Albuera.
Homoc said the three men admitted during interrogation that they were high on drugs at past 2 a.m. yesterday and had a drinking session that lasted until 5 a.m.
An hour later, they decided to go home and then saw Higida walking across the area on her way to school.
Higida’s remains were brought to the Tupas Funeral Homes in Carcar City pending an autopsy.
On December 19 last year, Argao police arrested a young man who broke into and tried to rape an under-aged relative at her home.
The 21-year-old suspect named Christian Villamora was stopped by the girl’s father who woke up after hearing his daughter trying to break free from the suspect’s hold.
Villamora managed to injure both the girl and her father but was apprehended by their neighbors.
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