By Jeannette Andrade
Last updated 05:49pm (Mla time) 08/28/2007
MANILA, Philippines — Mystery shrouds the death of a 20-year-old graduating University of the Philippines (UP) student who was rushed to a hospital in Quezon City, where he was declared dead on arrival.
All the mother of graduating UP Bachelor of Science major in Public Administration student Chris Anthony Mendez received in Tiaong, Quezon was a phone call at around 6:30 p.m. Monday that her first born was at a morgue.
Cristina Garcia Mendez initially thought that the landlady of the apartment where her son Chris was a boarder had been telling her a bad joke. The landlady had said that Chris was brought to the Veteranâ€™s Memorial Hospital and had died there. He was subsequently brought to the St. Peterâ€™s Memorial Chapels in Quezon Avenue, Quezon City.
But when she saw his body at the St. Peterâ€™s Memorial Chapels in Quezon Avenue, Tuesday morning, the truth of it all dawned upon her.
Chris bore bruises all over his body, particularly on the back of the arms and thighs. There was no trace of his cellular phone nor his other personal belongings. When she asked the UP Administration and the National College of Public Administration and Governance (NCPAG) for an explanation to his death, all they said was they had to wait for the official autopsy and investigation reports before they can make a conclusion.
Dean Alex Brillantes of the NCPAG assured the victimâ€™s family of the full support of the college as well as the entire UP community, who all want to get to the bottom of the incident.
But an official of the NCPAG, who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak, told the Philippine Daily Inquirer that they suspect Chris had died from hazing.
Chris was just last week appointed as the NCPAG representative to the UP Central Student Council being a councilor of the student council of the college where he belongs. His classmates kept mum about his other affiliations saying they were instructed by â€œthe vice chancellorâ€ not to speak about what happened, especially to the media, because â€œit would only blow the incident out of proportion.â€ They did not divulge the name of the vice chancellor who had given the directive.
The students told the Inquirer that the vice chancellor and the UP administration would be giving the official statements.
Shan Abdulwahid, UP CSC president, told the Inquirer that Chris was last seen alive on Saturday afternoon, but added the victim was never heard of after that, nor was anyone able to contact him on his cellular phone.
Abdulwahid said that the CSC officials are set to go to the St. Peterâ€™s Memorial Chapel and are still awaiting the official statement of the UP Diliman administration about the incident.
The village chairman of Talisay, Tiaong, Quezon, Pedro Panopio, who was designated by the family to speak on their behalf showed the Inquirer a statement written by the duty guard of the Veteranâ€™s Memorial Hospital identified as a certain Jonathan Garduce.
He noted in his handwritten statement that Chris was brought to the medical facility at around 1:08 a.m. Monday by a certain â€œDr. Francisco Cruzâ€ aboard a white Toyota Innova with license plates ZXB-393, followed by two other vehicles: a Nissan Trooper (WGL-515) and an Isuzu van (XAS-548).
The group hurriedly left the hospital after providing the hospital with Chrisâ€™s personal information but gave the hospital staff their identities.
Chris was allegedly already pale and unresponsive when brought to the hospital where he was declared dead several minutes later. He was transferred to the St. Peterâ€™s Memorial Chapel at around 4:00 am Monday.
Panopio, a relative of the victim, said that they have agreed to an autopsy to determine what had really caused Chrisâ€™ death, after which they will bring him back to Tiaong, Quezon.
Asked if they have already been told of what had really happened, Panopio said, â€œNobody will tell us anything. Even his classmates are not saying anything. The UP officials are telling us that they also have to wait for the result of the autopsy and the investigation.â€
â€œWe want justice for my nephew. He was a healthy boy and we cannot accept that he would just die like that without knowing what happened to him,â€ Panopio said.
Even the UP police have kept the incident under wraps. The desk officer of the UP police, a certain Corporal Kalibo, told the Inquirer that their investigators are looking into the incident but gave sketchy details.
He said that they only received a phone call from the Veteranâ€™s Memorial Hospital which informed them that a student had died there after an incident inside the UP Diliman campus near the Bahay ng Alumni at the corner of Magsaysay and Balagtas Roads. But the security officer would not give further details, not even the time when â€œthe incidentâ€ supposedly happened.
The Quezon City Police District (QCPD) has launched a parallel investigation into the incident with the UP police seemingly reluctant to seek assistance from police investigators because of a memorandum of agreement prohibiting the entry of PNP personnel in the UP campus â€œto avoid the militarization of the university.â€