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Murder raps filed versus the Lofrancos over Janine’s death

January 10, 2007

CATBALOGAN, Samar  –  After a month of waiting for witnesses to come out to tell their stories behind the burning of the Lester Lace grocery store last November 14, 2006, where a charred body of a 14-year old girl Candice Janine Ong Paulin was found, finally about ten witnesses executed their respective affidavits to support the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group’s (CIDG) recommendation to prosecute the owners of the subject grocery store with the charges of murder.

Last December 7, with a number of placards, the Justice for Janine funeral march was attended by thousands of supporters seeking justice for the mysterious death of a Lester Lace fire victim, 2nd year high school student Candice Janine Ong Paulin.

Named as respondents of the case were Dr. Leo Lofranco and Mrs. Grace Lofranco, both owners of the Lester Lace grocery store here and included in the charge sheet is a certain Jericson Tagapan of Brgy. Maulong of this town, the security guard on-duty during the time the store was burned which is being alleged as the one who helped the Lofranco couple in disposing of the victim’s body.

Mary Jean Paulin, mother of “Janine” disclosed that the CIDG here thru P/Insp. Fernando M. Ferrer, finally issued them a transmittal letter to the Provincial Prosecutor’s Office to conduct a preliminary investigation on the minor’s death which was discovered only on the following day of the fire incident. The charges were filed on December 29, exactly 45 days after Janine’s death.

The CIDG recommendation was based on the agency’s own investigation of the incident which was supplemented by the accounts of the witnesses and the 2 autopsy reports conducted by at least two medico-legal doctors from Catbalogan and the PNP Crime Laboratory.

CIDG chief P/Insp. Ferrer’s told in his affidavit, that the underlying circumstances pointing to the apparent presence of Janine inside the burning grocery store whose access to the key resides solely to its owners and the complementing results of the autopsy reports saying that the victim died about 3 hours before the fire and the accounts of the witnesses stipulating allegedly that Janine was with the owners of the store in an apparent commotion few hours before the incident, are leading conditions for anybody to suspect an obvious foul play over the girl’s death.

“We know how rich the Lofranco’s are, but we will not stop our fight to seek justice for our daughter, we believe in the integrity of our courts here and I know that Janine is just out there looking at us but she’s crying for justice”, Mary Jean Paulin stressed.

This writer gathered that based on the autopsy report made by Dr. Felino C. Gualdrapa, a Physician from the Samar Provincial Hospital here, the victim accordingly did not die of the fire.

“I found out that the cause of death was due to asphyxiation by suffocation or choking to stop passage of air from the nose and mouth, if she died due to the fire, her cause of death should have been carbon monoxide poisoning which is impossible because the autopsy revealed no traces of carbon in her lungs. The victim was already dead for not less than three hours before she was burned”, Dr. Gualdrapa revealed in his affidavit.

These findings of Dr. Gualdrapa was seconded by the PNP Crime Laboratory medico-legal Dr. Angel Cordero, who conducted a separate autopsy on the charred body of the fire victim stressing that the cause of death is cardio respiratory arrest due to shock due to traumatic asphyxia and external application of stimulus.

“Because of these circumstances, we are 100 percent sure that our daughter was killed, and the culprit should be put in jail”, Mary Jean stressed.

Earlier, during the organization of the “Justice of Janine” movement, it wasn’t clear yet as to who will be the respondents of the murder raps, especially when the Lofrancos issued a radio statement denying their involvement in the fire incident and more over their acquaintance with the fire victim.

“But we likewise need answers and we are just as interested as everyone else in unraveling the real circumstances of the incident”, Dr. Lofranco told in his press statement.