When Rolito Go killed a student

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

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Missing convict Rolito Go went to jail for killing a 25-year-old engineering student in a 1991 road rage incident

MANILA, Philippines – He would have been 46 by now, but a trip to buy pizza – and an encounter with Rolito Go – ended all possibilities for this La Salle college student.

Eldon Maguan, then a 25-year-old engineering student, died after Go shot him in the head in 1991. Go went to jail for this and on Wednesday, August 15, eventually went missing.

GO'S VICTIM. Eldon Maguan, then 25, died after Go shot him in the head in 1991. Screen grab from GMA-7's Saksi

Who would have thought the shooting incident would happen on July 2, 1991? Maguan was just driving his car along Wilson St in San Juan when he encountered Go.

A construction magnate, the 43-year-old Go came from a fight with his girlfriend at a bakeshop nearby. He entered Wilson – a one-way street – in the opposite direction. He thus went against the traffic and nearly bumped Maguan’s vehicle, sparking one of the Philippines’ most sensational road rage incidents.

The businessman then alighted his car and shot Maguan inside his vehicle. The student would live for a few more days.

Go left the scene aboard his vehicle, but a nearby restaurant’s security guard took down the killer’s plate number. He was identified through the car, which was registered to a certain Elsa Ang Go, and a facsimile or impression of the credit card he used in the bakeshop. The bakeshop’s security guard also identified him as the person who had shot Maguan.

Fugitive magnate

On July 8, 1991, or 6 days after shooting incident, Go turned himself in to the San Juan police. The police immediately detained the businessman, and filed a frustrated homicide complaint before the Rizal provincial prosecutor on the same day.

The next day, Maguan died. The prosecutor had not filed a case in court that time.

Then on July 11, 1991, the prosecutor went to court, charging Go with murder instead of frustrated homicide. He would go to jail and undergo trial for two years. In 1993, the Pasig Regional Trial Court convicted Go of murder with a 40-year jail term.

CONVICTED MAGNATE. The Pasig Regional Trial Court convicted Go of murder in 1993. Screen grab from GMA-7's Saksi

But the businessman would not immediately suffer this verdict. On Nov 1, 1993 – a few days before the court convicted him – Go bolted his jail cell. He would run free until April 30, 1996, when he was rearrested in a Pampanga piggery.

In 1999, Go petitioned the Supreme Court (SC) to reverse or modify the Pasig RTC’s verdict, which was affirmed by the Court of Appeals. The SC ruled with finality against Go’s petition on January 10, 2000.

From then on, Go would remain at the maximum security compound of the New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa City.

In 2009, he was moved to the minimum security compound after having met a required number of years in jail. Several times, he also applied for parole – something that Maguan’s family has opposed and that the government has rejected. 

In 2011, the convict revealed he was suffering from colon cancer. That same year, he showed The Philippine Daily Inquirer his cottage near the Bilibid main building, a privilege he got as a “living out” inmate. He also said prison authorities allowed him to exit the penitentiary once in a while for treatment.

ABS-CBN News, however, exposed Go’s alleged attempt to leave Bilibid without a permit in June 2011. Go reportedly claimed he was going to the hospital for treatment, but couldn’t present any permit. 

ESCAPE OR ABDUCTION? Rolito Go, who went missing in the Bilibid this week, had attempted to leave his prison cell in the past. Screen grab from ABS-CBN's TV Patrol

On Wednesday, Go eventually disappeared – abducted, if his sister is to be believed. But the chief of the New Bilibid Prison, Supt Richard Schwarzkopf Jr, told dzBB that Go is considered an “escapee.” 

The government is now investigating the incident, in hopes there would still be justice for Go’s victim. – Rappler.com

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Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He finished MA Journalism in Ateneo and MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email pat.esmaquel@rappler.com