De Lima sees hope in Ruby Rose case after arrest of another suspect

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima sees the arrest of another suspect in the gruesome killing of Ruby Rose Barrameda as an opportunity to get the trial rolling once more.

Interviewed on Friday, De Lima said she would meet with the prosecutors handling the case to discuss the agency's next move following the arrest of Robert Ponce in in Isabela province last Wednesday.

"Pag-uusapan namin kung paano iti-trigger na magsimula uli ang kaso. Baka puwede mag-proceed because of another arrested accused, Ponce, at para mapa-arraign na rin siya," she said.

Barrameda, sister of former beauty queen and actress Rochelle Barrameda, was reported missing in March 2007. Her body was found two years later stuffed inside a cemented drum dropped in the waters off Navotas City.

Last February, the Court of Appeals stopped the trial after it ruled in favor of the petition by Manuel Jimenez Jr., the victim's father-in-law, sought the inhibition of the judge handling the case.

De Lima gave her assurance after the Barrameda family visited her at the DOJ main office in Manila to get updates on the murder case.

"Sabi namin kay Secretary De Lima, kung ano ang makabubuti sa kaso ni Ruby Rose para mapabilis, lahat tatanggapin namin," Rochelle said.

De Lima said they would also discuss during the case conference Ponce's request that he be turned into a state witness.

Another suspect, Manuel Montero, the one who pointed authorities to the location of Barrameda’s body in 2009, had earlier requested to be turned into a witness. He was also the one who positively identified Ponce based on photographs secretly taken by National Bureau of Investigation agents of Ponce in his Isabela home.

It was also Montero who linked Jimenez Jr., his brother Lope and son Manuel III to the killing. Manuel III was the former husband of Barrameda.

De Lima said the DOJ would be studying if Ponce, who is now in the custody of the NBI, could be admitted to the government's Witness Protection Program.

Jimenez Jr. is currently under hospital arrest at the Philippine Heart Center in Quezon City, but the Barrameda family admitted they are not even sure if the suspect remains inside the hospital facility.

"Wala kaming way para ma-check siya kung siya ba talaga ang nasa loob. Hindi na okay sa amin iyon... Masyado nang nagda-drama. Isa kang akusado. Dapat i-trato kang akusado," Rochelle told mediamen. — Mark D. Merueñas/KBK, GMA News

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