After 13 years, kidnap victim Michael Armas finally found justice on Oct. 3 after a Cavite court convicted kidnapper Virgilio Cupino guilty beyond reasonable doubt, according to social news network Rappler.
Cupino was sentenced to reclusion perpetua, or 20-40 years’ imprisonment, by Cavite Regional Trial Court Branch 18 Acting Presiding Judge Jaime B. Santiago. He will be eligible for pardon after 30 years.
Emil Armas, the victim’s father, said the path to justice has been difficult. During the trial, the family received death threats, and principal witness Elpidio del Mundo was killed May 2008 while tending his piggery. His wife suffered serious injuries.
Armas was abducted in 2005, when he was 32.
He noted that despite the guilty verdict, he did not feel completely free because of the trauma he suffered, and the fact that his other three kidnappers are still at large. “I remember my regret over the time that had passed – that’s 13 years. I got over my trauma in 2013 so when I think about it, I easily lost 8 years. Plus if our lives were not turned upside down because of my abduction, my family and I would be leading much better lives now.”
“I have this victory but because of what happened, you still don’t know who is monitoring you, your kids. They have information about my kids; they’re doing their homework. This is only one of my kidnappers, there are three others who have not been apprehended,” he added.
Present during the promulgation of the decision was social activist and anti-crime crusader Teresita Ang See of the Movement for Restoration of Peace and Order (MRPO) who said that the victory proved that no matter how difficult, justice would be served.
“We have always held on to our belief that evil triumphs because good men do nothing so it has always been our principle that we should not allow crime to pay. Used to be KFR pays and nobody reports, nobody cooperates so it became a perfect crime until we organized the victims to fight back,” said Ang See.
On the night of May 22, 2005, Mike and his two friends were on their way home from a farm in Amadeo, Cavite, owned by Del Mundo – who would become the principal witness in the case – when they were stopped by armed men.
They were blindfolded while his car was commandeered by the suspects who drove them around for several minutes.
The two others were released while Michael was held for three days.
He was released after his father negotiated with the kidnappers. The family then went to the Police Anti-Crime and Emergency Response and MRPO. Police operatives, together with Michael and Del Mundo, returned to the area where he was held, which was apparently owned by Cupino.
Cupino was arrested for illegal possession of firearms and kidnapping for ransom.