Are Roberta Cokin’s killers still there?

By: Alex P. Vidal

“The claim that too many criminals are being jailed, that there is over-incarceration, ignores an unfortunate fact: For the vast majority of crimes, a perpetrator is never identified or arrested, let alone prosecuted, convicted and jailed.” – Tom Cotton

IN many sensational crimes in the 70s, 80s and even in the 90s, some of the perpetrators were inmates allowed by corrupt jailers to go out for the “special assignment.”

After committing the crimes, the inmates surreptitiously returned inside the jail like nothing has happened.

This made the crimes almost perfect; the chicanery has puzzled the investigators.

Either the corrupt jailers were the masterminds themselves if the hit was a robbery, or they were bribed by syndicates to kill their rivals.

Some of these true cases have been immortalized in the movies.

Some of the jails or “rehabilitation centers” in the Philippines are not only managed by corrupt and incompetent officials, they are also lairs of hired killers pampered and directed by scoundrels, who are paid by the taxpayers to secure and manage our prison system.




According to stories we have been monitoring since last week, some 1,914 heinous crimes prisoners have been given freedom by the Bureau of Correction (BuCor) because of the Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA) law or Republic Act No. 10592.

Because of this controversial law, rapist and killer Antonio Sanchez was nearly released last month, while some of the rapists and killers of the Chiong sisters have been freed.

We became curious because the identities of the 1,914 “ex-convicts” have not been known as of this writing; reports only mentioned that some of them were Chinese nationals convicted of drug trafficking.

Some of them were reportedly notorious kidnappers, crime kingpins, rapists, bank robbers, serial killers, among other inmates who were supposedly not eligible for release if GCTA wasn’t misinterpreted.

Because of the hullabaloo many Ilonggos have been asking the same question we asked here last week: were the kidnappers and killers of Roberta “Obing” Cokin among those 1,914 free men and women?




The Cokin case was the most celebrated case to have hit Western Visayas in the 90s.

Unless the BuCor will release the names of the 1,914 soon, we will never know of ex-Maj. Rolando Maclang, his paramour Juliet Haresco, ex-Airman Second Class Charlito Domingo, Ronaldo Porquez, and bagman John Mamarion are still in the National Bilibid Prison (NBP).

Their conviction for the kidnap-murder of Cokin, 70, was affirmed by the Supreme Court in 2003.

They were originally meted with the death penalty, but then-President Arroyo commuted the sentences of all death row convicts to life imprisonment even before the death penalty was abolished.

Cokin was kidnapped in Bacolod City on July 15, 1995.

The kidnappers had initially demanded P2 million in ransom, but the National Bureau of Investigation reportedly bungled the payoff.

Cokin’s decomposing body was found in Brgy. Palaypay, Anilao, Iloilo in August 1995.




We also remember Ricky Braga, convicted of killing US Peace Corps volunteer Robert John Bock and nine Ilonggos on August 12, 1998 in Sara, Iloilo.

Ricky and his cousin Feliciano Braga, Ernesto Brito has been sentenced to life imprisonment.

Ricky’s sister, Louella, and her husband, Roy Donesa, were given up to 10 years’ imprisonment for helping Ricky hide after the multiple murders.

Aside from Bock, others killed were Julioceto Aspera, Warlito Avanturado, Francisco Castroverde, Jose Garcia Jr., Elvis Lamsin, Robert Pantin, Jonathan Sotic, Eduardo Sortigoza, and his pregnant wife Angela.

The victims were all gunned down as their vehicles passed through a village in Sara, about 110 kilometers north of Iloilo City.

If they were among those freed by the BuCor, nobody can tell.

(The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two local dailies in Iloilo)