What’s going on here?

Michael Alan Hamlin

Posted on November 14, 2006

Police should seek the truth, not prosecute the innocent

Two months ago, I wrote about the tragic passing of Delia Gutierrez, a highly respected publishing executive who at the time of her death was publisher and chairman of MediaG8way. MediaG8way publishes ComputerWorld, PCWorld, and Enterprise magazines in the Philippines. Ms. Gutierrez, the wife of Ibarra Gutierrez who is editor-in-chief of MediaG8way publications, was found bleeding from multiple stab wounds September 6 in the lavatory of her office.

The circumstances of Ms. Gutierrez’s death, I wrote, were unclear. Today, they remain unclear. Media reports have indicated that Ms. Gutierrez died from multiple stab wounds to her upper body and two additional wounds to her neck. On the surface, these wounds seem to suggest that Ms. Gutierrez was violently attacked in her office and left for dead.

There are a number of reasons, however, why that natural assumption may not be the factual explanation for Ms. Gutierrez’s death. For example, her assailant would have had to pass unseen through a corridor visible to a number of employees. Although the lavatory shares a common wall with work areas, no sound of struggle was heard. According to individuals I’ve talked to who saw the scene immediately after Ms. Gutierrez was found, there were no signs of a struggle.

Perhaps that is why the Makati Police officer assigned to investigate the case, Police Officer 2 Dominador Robles, has rather conveniently decided that Mr. Gutierrez must be responsible for his wife’s death. As you may have read or heard last week, Officer Robles filed what is reported to be a seven-page report and complaint before Makati prosecutors, recommending that Mr. Gutierrez be charged with parricide.

As of this writing, it is difficult to say what evidence Officer Robles offers in his report. Although media appear to have been made privy to the report, neither Mr. Gutierrez nor his legal counsel has seen it. They learned of the charges filed against Mr. Gutierrez through media reports that began appearing on the Internet Wednesday afternoon, followed by published reports on Thursday.

In those reports, Officer Robles offers three reasons for the charge of parricide. First, that Mr. Gutierrez “wanted to convince” investigators that Ms. Gutierrez’s wounds were self-inflected. Second, that he refused to submit to a lie-detector test. And third, that Mr. Gutierrez’s family had hired a private doctor to conduct a separate autopsy of Ms. Gutierrez’s body.

Officer Robles, it should be noted, offered no hard evidence, according to media reports, of Mr. Gutierrez’s involvement in his wife’s death, or a motive. This prompted Mr. Gutierrez’s attorney, Teddy Rigoroso, to remark in a statement, “There is no way the investigation could have implicated my client, and there is absolutely no evidence that even remotely suggests my client’s involvement.” In the interest of transparency and full-disclosure, I assisted Mr. Rigoroso in preparing that statement, and my firm disseminated it to media.

But what of Officer Robles’ three reasons for filing parricide charges? Although I cannot speak for Mr. Gutierrez, who is a close friend of mine and has been for many years, I am told he never tried to convince Officer Robles that Ms. Gutierrez committed suicide. On the contrary, he remarked in the desperation of the moment that he was relieved that Ms. Gutierrez hadn’t appeared to commit suicide, although she had been uncharacteristically depressed and distant for several weeks.

Second, Mr. Gutierrez never refused to take a lie-detector test. He merely requested that Attorney Rigoroso, his legal counsel, accompany him to the test. Officer Robles apparently never took up the offer. Third, Mr. Gutierrez did hire a highly respected forensic pathologist on the insistent advice of his friends and family for a number of reasons, which in light of the charges filed against Mr. Gutierrez, seem to have been well-founded. Incidentally, Officer Robles, according to the Gutierrez children, has consistently refused to cooperate with the pathologist’s requests for information and assistance.

Officer Robles, again according to media reports, also told reporters that six MediaG8way employees said Mr. Gutierrez was the last person to go into the lavatory before Ms. Gutierrez was found. Again, what is most striking about Officer Robles’ allegations is what has been left out. He neglected to indicate that no employee has attempted to implicate Mr. Gutierrez, that an employee saw Ms. Gutierrez in her office typing and then preparing her bag to leave around 30 minutes before she was found, and that Mr. Gutierrez entered the toilet only to find his wife fatally wounded and cried for help.

The Gutierrez children are finalizing a statement that will provide much of this information in their own words, to set the record straight. If this nightmare were not happening, I don’t think I could imagine a worse set of circumstances. The question for Officer Robles is, “What is going on here?” Indeed, his job is to seek the truth, not to prosecute the innocent.

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