Friday, April 16, 2010

“Means, Motive and Opportunity” is Key to Solving Trenas Twin Bombing Case

In Philippine criminal jurisprudence, we have what we call the “three elements of crime” principle. These are, namely: means, motive and opportunity. “Means” means the ability of the perpetrator to commit the crime, “motive” is the underlying reason why the person committed the crime and “opportunity” means that the defendant had the opportunity to commit the crime and took it. Unlike in the movies, establishing that the perpetrator had the “means” (i.e. a handgun, a knife) and the “motive” (i.e. monetary gain, sexual gratification) is usually not enough to convince a judge to issue a guilty verdict. Veteran lawyers will tell you that the presence of one of these three elements is not, in and of itself, sufficient to establish a guilty verdict in any court of law. To guarantee a conviction, a lawyer must not only be able to establish “means” and “motive” but must also provide incontrovertible evidence that the defendant had the opportunity to commit the crime and that he actually acted upon the opportunity that presented itself.

Today every Tom, Dick and Harry in Iloilo City has his own take on the Trenas Twin Bombing Case. Depending on who you talk to, each has his or her own interpretation of the case. Pro-Gonzalez people will tell you that the recent spate of grenade bombings is nothing more than a case of “bomba me” while Trenas partisans are fully convinced that they are being terrorized by goons of the opposing camp. The funny thing is that most of these so-called “legal opinions” are based not really on the hard facts and empirical evidence but more on political convictions and personal allegiances. Thus, these so-called “legal opinions” can be dismissed entirely as mere speculations. To arrive at a better and more intelligent understanding of the Trenas Grenade Case, I would like to analyze it by applying the “three elements of crime” principle.

First, the "means." Everyone in Iloilo City knows that both Gonzalez and Trenas have the means to procure a hand grenade and the financial wherewithal to pay someone to throw it. Both camps have a surfeit of scary-looking men of obviously ex-military background hovering around them every time they make the kapihan rounds and go house-to-house campaigning. In addition to the two policemen assigned as their official security detail, Mayor Trenas has in fact four (4) ex-Marines guarding his person while Secretary Gonzalez also has his own security complement comprised of former military and law enforcement men. And while we’re at it, we can actually point to many other personalities in Iloilo City aside from Trenas, Gonzalez and Jamora that have the means to procure a grenade and the goons to throw it.

Second, the “motive.” Everyone is in agreement that the motive for the grenade attacks is political. According to the Trenas camp, the grenade attacks were perpetrated by the Gonzalezes to sow terror and intimidate their supporters while the Gonzalez camp have been pushing the thesis that the two incidents were nothing more than a case of “bomba me.” When faced with equally convincing claims, police investigators usually look at who so has benefited from the crime to determine motive. And ironic as it sounds, upon deeper analysis, the one who has actually benefited from the grenade attacks is the “victim” himself, Mayor Trenas. From the very start, Trenas wanted Iloilo City to be put under Comelec control and he had been labelling the Gonzalezes as the “Ampatuans of Iloilo City.” In fact, the Trenas property bombings have only served to embolden their supporters and they even gained public sympathy for their plight. It has given them a way to convert their flagging campaign into some sort of moral crusade. Is it just mere coincidence that subsequent events tended to not only to confirm this depiction of Trenas of the Gonzalezes but has made putting under Comelec control feasible? I don’t think so. As such, to solve the case the ICPO must also investigate people in the Trenas camp because they also have a very strong motive for committing the crime and that is nothing less than their political survival in Iloilo City.

So far we have established that both Gonzalez and Trenas have the means and the motive to commit the crime. Now let’s analyze who had the “opportunity” to do it. This is where police forensics and investigative skills come into play to catch the culprit. The initial SOCO investigation stated that the safety lever of the grenade was recovered within the walls of the Trenas ancestral property in Molo. The safety lever found inside the Trenas property is proof positive that the perpetrator did his dastardly deed from within the property walls because, as any ROTC graduate knows, the safety lever usually pops when you pull the pin and it usually falls right were the person throws the grenade from. Right now there are several attempts to muddle this fact in the local media but news accounts of the incident in national media (i.e. ABS CBN and Philippine Daily Inquirer) is quite clear: the safety lever was indeed found inside the Trenas property walls. I am pointing this out because I believe the safety lever is the key to solving the case. It is the “smoking gun” so to speak, the strongest empirical evidence that the grenade attacks were staged.

A cursory look at the sprawling Trenas ancestral house in Molo would show that it is surrounded by a high cement wall (about eight to ten feet in height plus a wired fence on top) with a vacant lot immediately in front of the property. The property is situated near a very busy street (in the vicinity of Hotel del Rio and John B. Lacson Colleges) and there are road construction workers (the drainage system in that area is being repaired) encamped 24/7 at the said vacant lot. Thus, the Gonzalezes had no “opportunity” because it would have been virtually impossible for a Gonzalez henchman to climb the high perimeter fence, throw the grenade, then scale back up the wall fast enough not to be blown by his own grenade, and coolly escape without being seen by anyone in the area. The only person who is capable of doing that is a ninja, and we all know that ninjas are just a figment of movie fantasy.

I would like to offer a more plausible theory to our police investigators. It could be that the simple reason why no one has seen the perpetrator is because the grenade thrower ran inside, not outside, the Trenas ancestral home. And with the recent eyewitness testimony of a taxi driver pointing to the security guard of Carlos Bakeshop as the one who lobbed the grenade, a pattern emerges which points to the Trenas Grenade Case as nothing but a “bomba me” plot designed to win public sympathy and ensure their electoral victory.

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