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MANILA, Philippines – It has been three months since Catherine Camilon was first reported missing by her family on October 12, 2023.
Camilon represented Tuy town, Batangas, in Miss Grand Philippines 2023 pageant. She also worked as a public school teacher.
Camilon’s family began to worry when she could not be reached, as the then-26-year-old beauty queen would usually update her family on her whereabouts. She last spoke to her family on the phone at 8 pm on the day she was reported missing – informing her mother that she was at a gasoline station in Bauan.
The night she went missing, Catherine had left her house in her vehicle, a gray Nissan Juke with the plate number NEI 2990.
Here is a timeline of the case’s development:
Police vow to intensify search efforts
On October 18, 2023, Colonel Samson Belmonte, director of the Batangas Police Provincial Office, said he was told to intensify the search efforts to locate Camilon and gather all the necessary information regarding her case.
The Philippine National Police assured the public that all PNP stations and units in Batangas were coordinating with the Tuy Municipal Police Station in acquiring any leads in Camilon’s disappearance.
Camilon spotted bloodied, police say
In an interview with GMA News on November 7, 2023, Major General Romeo Camarat Jr., director of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG), said two witnesses shared that they had seen Camilon on the night of her disappearance. The witnesses saw a bloodied and unconscious Catherine being transferred by three men to a red Honda CR-V from her gray Nissan Juke.
The two witnesses also claimed that the men carrying Camilon saw them, and one of these pointed a gun at them. The witnesses said that the man with the gun had distinct tattoos and physical features.
The police said later that the gunman was “positively identified” through the rogue’s gallery of the CIDG.
Red vehicle found in vacant lot
The red Honda CR-V where the three men had transferred Camilon’s body was found in a vacant lot on November 8, 2023, in Barangay Dumuclay, Batangas City, an ABS-CBN News report said. In the vehicle, the PNP Forensic Group found 17 hair strands, fingerprints, and 12 swabs of blood samples.
Police officer charged with Camilon’s kidnapping
Police Major Allan De Castro was charged with kidnapping and illegal detention at the Batangas Provincial Prosecutor’s Office on November 13, 2023, along with his driver and bodyguard Jeffrey Ariola Magpantay and two unidentified men, according to a Philippine News Agency report.
While De Castro, who was allegedly romantically involved with Camilon, claimed his innocence, Colonel Jacinto Malinao Jr., chief of CIDG-Calabarzon, said in an Inquirer report that the cop was “allegedly capable of committing violence.” Malinao then cited possible instances of physical harm toward Camilon.
A DNA match
Caramat told ABS-CBN News on November 20, 2023, that the 17 hair strands and 12 blood sample swabs that were found in the red Honda CR-V were confirmed to be a match to Camilon’s parents’ DNA.
Primary suspect absent from preliminary hearing
De Castro, the primary suspect in Camilon’s disappearance, skipped the preliminary investigation conducted at the Batangas City Hall of Justice on January 9 due to a fever, GMA Integrated News reported.
A suspect surrenders to police
Magpantay, one of the four suspects in Camilon’s case, surrendered to the Balayan Municipal Police Station in Batangas on January 9. He was accompanied by his live-in partner when he turned himself in.
Dismissal of primary suspect from police service
On Thursday, January 18, Brigadier General Kenneth Lucas, director of the Police Regional Office – Calabarzon (PRO 4A) said in a press conference that De Castro was removed from his post, Inquirer.net reported.
In the same report by Inquirer.net, Lucas said that De Castro’s dismissal took effect on January 16 after a thorough investigation by the Regional Internal Affairs Service-Calabarzon.
Police float possibility of Camilon’s death
Major Nilo Morallos, deputy chief of CIDG-Calabarzon, then told the media in the same press conference that the witness accounts on Camilon’s case all pointed to the possibility of her death.
“We are hoping for the best, but we are expecting the [worst]. Hindi po namin masabi kung wala na po talaga, pero base po sa account ng witnesses namin, it appears na ‘yun na nga po, na patay na po,” he said, according to another report by Inquirer.net.
(We are hoping for the best, but we are expecting the worst. We can’t confirm if she is really gone, but based on the accounts of our witnesses, it appears that she is already dead.)
PNP chief orders security for Camilon family
On January 20, PNP chief Police General Benjamin Acorda Jr. ordered PRO 4A Director Lucas to arrange for security for the Camilon family, Philstar.com reported.
“We are in constant coordination with the local police, especially the regional director of Calabarzon, to make the necessary arrangements and security measures,” Acorda said, according to Philstar.com.
Primary suspect released from police custody
Acorda told the press that De Castro has been released from police custody following his dismissal from service, ABS-CBN News reported on January 22. However, authorities will still continue to probe Camilon’s case and the kidnapping and illegal detention charges filed against De Castro.
CHR commends PNP’s efforts on Camilon’s case, calls for prompt resolution
The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) released a statement on Tuesday, January 23, recognizing the efforts and progress the PNP has made so far in locating Camilon. It also reminded PNP members to refer back to its mantra of serving and protecting.
“In light of the ongoing investigation, it is critical that we remind PNP members to uphold the mantra ‘To Serve and Protect.’ This reminder is intended to reinforce the public’s trust in the PNP and its mission to serve the community while upholding the highest ethical standards and respect for human rights,” the CHR said.
The CHR also called for a “prompt resolution” on Camilon’s case. – Rappler.com