2008 NURSE GRAD’S SLAY

02/08/2011 - Nearly three years ago 20-year-old nursing student Ruby Jade Ruba stood on a dimly lit street texting on her cellphone in Capitol Site, Cebu City.

Three young men on a motorbike rode by and snatched the P5,000 phone.

When Ruba shouted for help, she was shot to death.

Yesterday, the Regional Trial Court Branch 11 convicted two of the three persons for Ruba's murder.

A key piece of evidence was a video footage of a TV interview and testimonies provided by two Cebu broadcast practitioners.

Ruba was three weeks away from graduation at the Cebu Doctors’ University Hospital College of Nursing.

Mark Anthony Gabriel and Aivan Barabat, both 20, were sentenced to reclusion perpetua or 20 to 40 years in prison for the crime of robbery with homicide.

They were also ordered by RTC Judge Ramon Daomilas Jr. to pay the victim's family P75,000 as civil indemnity; P75,000 for moral damages; P75,000 for exemplary damages; and P247,800 for funeral expenses.

Their companion, Karl Marx Carticiano, was acquitted. Evidence was not enough to show he was guilty beyond reasonable doubt.

The court gave weight to the testimony of an eyewitness and the interviews of GMA-7 reporter Chona Carreon and radio dySS radio reporter Jeffrey Tumulak who talked to Baranat and Gabriel following their arrest.

In a video presented in court, the two suspects “voluntarily” admitted to theft and murder.

Carreon testified that the third suspect, Carticiano, denied any involvement in the crime.

The judge said the admission of both “made openly before the media” can be given credence.

Based on the videotaped interview, the victim’s shout prompted Barabat to shoot her.

“On the other hand, Gabriel admitted that they just had a 'trip' (adventure in killing the victim),” the judge ruled.

Their admissions in the video were “voluntary and spontaneous.” The judge said the footage was reviewed several times to check for any trace of fear or coercion in their facial or body expressions but there was none.

Ruba’s family members were relieved by the verdict but said the wounds may never heal completely.

“Dili na mabalik ang anak nako. Di mabayloan og kuwarta lamang (My daughter can’t come back. Money isn't enough to replace my daughter's life),” Ruba's father Vicente told reporters.

As for the acquittal of the third man, he said it’s up to the party what to do next.

Counsel for the accused Marlon Cabilan said he will question the verdict before the Court of Appeals.

Actual actors

Margie Ruba, the victim's mother, thanked those who supported their family three years after the trial started.

Some of the victim's classmates attended the promulgation yesterday.

Relatives of Barabat and Gabriel wept and hugged them after hearing the court's ruling.

Prosecution lawyer Rameses Villagonzalo told reporters they believed all the three accused conspired to kill Ruby Jade.

“They were all the actual actors. (But) we have to bear with the findings of the court. The three accused deserve to be convicted. If some escape liability, that is the essence of the rule of law. We can't impose what we want,” Villagonzalo said.

In his ruling, the judge gave weight to the testimonies of an eyewitness and broadcast journalists who taped their interviews with the suspects.

“The testimonies of the both accused and witnesses fail as against a testimony of an eyewitness where there is no ill motive on his part to testify,” the judge said.

The eyewitness presented by the prosecution testified that Barabat was seen holding a revolver at the crime scene.

Although the witness failed to see the actual shooting, he said he heard a gunshot and later saw Ruby Jade's body lying on the ground.

'Voluntary, spontaneous'

Ruby Jade, a graduating student of Cebu Doctors’ University, was the only daughter of Vicente, a Coast Guard officer based in Macrohan town, southern Leyte. She had two older brothers.

The eyewitness recounted that he and his companions were headed to a nearby store to buy beer when they saw Ruby screaming in a parking area in front of the Noramar dormitory at barangay Capitol Site.

The student had just visited a classmate where they had been studying for an exam.

He said they heard gunfire and saw Barabat emerge from the parking area with a revolver tucked in his waist.

The eyewitness said Barabat looked at him in the eye before he boarded a dark motorcycle driven by an unidentified man.

The eyewitness said he and his companions ran away after the incident but returned to the site to see Ruby being rushed by two security guards to the Cebu Doctors’ Hospital.

While Barabat and Gabriel first admitted their role in the killing in media interviews, they later recanted their confession, claiming police tortured them to own up to the crime.

The judge said there was no showing that the Cebu broadcast media were influenced, much less controlled by the police.

“Television news reporters testimonies on record showed that they were acting as professionals (when they interviewed the suspects),” the judge said.

There was no coercion during the interviews.

Judge Daomilas also noted Barabat's reaction when showed a photo of the video.

“Barabat didn't cry when he was arrested. But he cried when he saw the victim's photo,” he said.

The judge said allegations of police brutality were not supported with evidence.

An eyewitness said he was unsure about the color of the getaway motorcycle.

Carticiano, the suspected third cohort, insisted he was innocent.

“I thank God for everything. Thank you, Lord. God will take care of everything,” he told
(Cebu Daily News)

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