Man’s admission solves Irish Mae rape-murder

By PAULO DS. PAPA, JONAS CABILES SOLTES and RHAYDZ B. BARCIA

A gruesome crime last October 28, 2022 in the capital town of Camarines Sur ended everything bright for a senior high school student. Four days after it happened, the wrongdoer himself confessed, solving the rape-murder-robbery case.


The confession followed the recovery by the police on October 31 of the body of victim Irish Mae Payonga, 18, under sacks of cement in a grassy lot in Barangay Cadlan in the Municipality of Pili.


Autopsy report says Payonga had no sign of struggle but had a “recent trauma” in her genitals.


Suspect


A witness identified suspect Reymart Belleza, 18, a pedicab driver. A CCTV footage also captured the moments before the crime, supporting the testimony of the witness.


The footage shows Payonga and the witness boarding the pedicab driven by Belleza.


The witness, who got off the pedicab before the victim, said the suspect was under the influence of alcohol.


Payonga was about to attend an event organized by a religious group inside the Camarines Sur provincial capitol grounds.


Confession


Police Colonel Julius Caesar Domingo, Provincial Director of the Philippine National Police (PNP) in Camarines Sur, in a press conference said suspect Belleza confessed to the crime minutes after his arrest.


Colonel Domingo said the suspect told the police that he (Belleza) grabbed the victim towards the crime scene, where the rape occurred. The suspect then suffocated the victim by covering her mouth and her nose with his bare hands.


After the crime, Belleza threw the shoes and jacket of the victim in a vacant lot some 300 meters from where he committed the rape-slay. Afterwards, the suspect also took the victim’s cellular phone and brought it to a mobile phone repair shop in Barangay Old San Roque, also in Pili.


The victim’s father confirmed that the phone belonged to his daughter Irish Mae.


Missing for two days


Victim Payonga was a resident of Camaligan town, some 10 kilometers from Pili. She had been missing for 2 days, as reported by the PNP in Camaligan, before her body was found.


Also recovered in the crime scene were the victim’s bag and watch.


Police said the victim might have been consumed by extreme fear, causing her to be immobile and passive during the crime.


Before the Confession


Two children on Monday, October 31, stumbled on the body of of the victim at Jeremiah St., Central Park Subdivision in Barangay Cadlan in Pili, Camarines Sur, three days after she was reported missing by her relatives.


The discovery of the body of Irish Mae “Mai-Mai” Payonga caused an uproar in the Ateneo de Naga University (AdNU) community after it was revealed that she was found naked in the bushes, and covered with a cement sack and soil, signs of foul play.


Payonga was an AdNU 12th grader – a grade equivalent to senior high school – who had gone missing on Friday, October 28, while she was supposed to take a bus to Pili to attend a church event.


Police said the discovery of the body was reported past 8 pm on Friday by 42-year-old Chuckie Solomo of Barangay Cadlan, Pili.


It was Solomo’s eight-year-old nephew and 12-year-old niece who found Payonga’s body.


Lawyer Edna Manguigad, Payonga’s aunt, said her niece left their house in Zone 1, Barangay Marupit, Camaligan town, to attend her church’s Tabernacle Revival Night at the Pili Capitol Convention Area.


The victim was clad in a black t-shirt, a denim jacket, and jeans, and wore a pair of white rubber shoes – things that were no longer on her when the children found her dead.


Manguigad said Payonga was unfamiliar with the place and left for Pili following the instructions of a church-mate on how to get to the venue.


“She texted her mother that she will be going home by 8 pm last Friday and that her uncle will bring her home,” she said.


Payonga, according to her aunt, sent another text message to a friend at around 5:44 pm about her being at the bus terminal on her way to attend the church activity in Pili. That was her last known text message.


The 5’8” student was last seen taking a public bus to Pili, but she never returned.


Manguigad said they found out that Payonga took Bus No. 1082 of JC Liner which left Naga at 5.44 pm that day.


She said Payonga’s family was looking into the possibility that the victim took a pedicab to the convention area at around 6:30 pm after she stepped out of the bus in Pili.


AdNU president Father Roberto Rivera called Payonga’s death a “soul-crushing news,” and joined calls for justice.


“We express our solidarity with her bereaved family and friends during this time of unspeakable grief,” read part of the AdNU statement released on Tuesday, November 1.


It added: “Let us be inspired by the memory of Irish Mae to work tirelessly for all victims of violence and injustice, to ever proclaim till the end of our days, ‘Never again!’”


Rivera said he spoke with Payonga’s mother Elaine, and assured her of the Ateneo community’s full support amid the tragedy.


He said, “When I asked her what we in Ateneo can do to help, she simply stated in her text message that ‘we need prayers and justice for my daughter.’”


AdNU’s Supreme Student Government also denounced the murder of Payonga.


The students’ council stated, “It is dismal and outrageous that such a horrendous and violent crime occurred. Until now, the suspect/s and the criminal intent are yet to be identified by the proper authorities. We also hope for a continuous progression of the investigative procedure to finally arrest the perpetrator.”


The group also said murder should serve as a reminder for students to stay cautious at all times. – Rappler.com