Best friend of missing Bohol mayor testifies in kidnapping case

Ryan Macasero
Best friend of missing Bohol mayor testifies in kidnapping case
Angela Leyson, a complainant in the kidnapping case, recalls how Gisela Bendong-Boniel was compelled to stay in Bohol overnight by municipal staff to sign 'important documents'

CEBU CITY, Philippines – Angela Leyson, the best friend and executive assistant of missing Bien Unido, Bohol, Mayor Gisela Bendong-Boniel, postively identified in court Niño Rey Boniel during her testimony in the kidnapping and serious illegal detention case she filed against him on Thursday, August 1.

Aside from this case, Niño is also a suspect in the murder of his wife, Gisela. The parricide case is also pending in court.

Leyson was in tears as she recounted how 6 armed men entered the room at Dive Camp Resort in Bien Unido town in June 6, 2017.

The mayor – who was a former commercial pilot for Air Asia Philippines – was only a year into her first term term when she was allegedly kidnapped, murdered and dumped into the sea somewhere between Mactan Island and Bohol. Gisela’s body has yet to be found to this day.

“I saw someone open the door and shut off the lights, a man in a mask grabbed Gisela, pulled her hair and punched her in the stomach,” Leyson said during her testimony on Thursday, August 1. 

Gisela stayed to sign ‘important documents’

Leyson told the court that she and Gisela were supposed to return to Cebu City the same evening, but were convinced by the municipality’s executive secretary Brian Sayson, and tourism officer Wilfredo Hoylar, to go to Bien Unido to sign documents related to her municipality. 

“We were already irritated that they could not have brought the papers to Tagbilaran,” Leyson said. She said that they were told the municipal employees who were handling the papers that needed to be signed had gone home for the day, and that the papers needed to be signed would be brought to them in the morning.  

The two were driven to Bien Unido town by Randel Lupas, who previously testified against Niño in March. 

“We had functions to attend to the same evening,” Leyson said. Department of Justice Senior Deputy State Prosecutor Richard Anthony Fadullon conducted the direct examination.  

He asked questions for about 1 hour and 30 minutes on Leyson’s recollection of the evening when Gisela was abducted.

During the examination, Leyson said that although the men were wearing masks, she recognized the voice of Niño. She also said that she heard Gisela refer to the man grabbing her hair as “In-In,” Niño’s nickname.

In-In, ayaw na si Lalay. Naa iyang anak sa pikas kwarto (In-In, not Lalay. Her son is in the other room),” she quoted Gisela telling the masked man.

She also heard the man say, “gipakaulawon ko nimo. Nanglaki pa gyud ka (You embarrassed me. You also cheated on me with another guy)!” 

In her mind, Leyson said, that statement confirmed that the masked man speaking was Niño.

‘Hiposa na na’

Leyson narrated how she was beat up, tasered and had duct tape wrapped over her mouth. She testified that when she was trying to plead with the men in the room while being bound, she heard Niño say, “hiposa na na. Saba na kaayo na (get rid of her. She’s too noisy).” 

Leyson woke up hours later with Gisela already gone, but said she recognized the faces of Hoylar and Lupas helping her get up and dressed when she woke up.  

Meanwhile, as Leyson was testifying, Niño was in court with his head down looking into a book. He did not react to any part of Leyson’s emotional testimony.

He addressed the court only once when he was asked to confirm his identity.  This was immediately after the prosecutor told Leyson to point out if the defendant was the room. 

Fadullon said the prosecution believes Leyson’s testimony strengthened the kidnapping and illegal detention cases against Niño, a former Bohol provincial board member. 

He said the testimony “sends a strong message that the evidence of the prosecution is not something that the defense cannot just throw away.”

Romero Boniel, Niño’s counsel, said that there was no illegal detention if the events happened as Leyson described them. He said it was not established that Leyson and Gisela were forcibly taken.  

The parricide case against Niño Rey for the murder of Gisela is being tried separately at the Lapu-Lapu Regional Trial Court.

The parricide case was dropped by state prosecutors in 2018, but refiled after public outcry. 

Leyson will continue her testimony on August 8, after prosecutors requested a recess to not exhaust witness Leyson. –

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Ryan Macasero

Ryan covers social welfare for Rappler. He started at Rappler as social media producer in 2013, and later took on various roles for the company: editor for the #BalikBayan section, correspondent in Cebu, and general assignments reporter in the Visayas region. He graduated from California State University, East Bay, with a degree in international studies and a minor in political science. Outside of work, Ryan performs spoken word poetry and loves attending local music gigs. Follow him on Twitter @ryanmacasero or drop him leads for stories at