Crimes of Passion - Eight True Tales of the Dark Side of Love

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Filipinos by tradition are passionate in love. They are romantic and have many customs about courtship and weddings, such as the harana or serenade, the pamamanhikan, and the paninilbihan. But this is just the sweet side of love. What happens when love is not answered, or worse, is betrayed? Many people will try to get over the pain. But a few will view the rejection as a humiliation and make it into such a major issue that cannot be resolved except by revenge.

In a “crime of passion”, a person commits a crime against a spouse or loved one, or another person, because of anger or heartbreak. When a person becomes very jealous or disappointed, it can produce such strong emotions that he cannot think rationally and may act on his impulses without thinking about the consequences. In many jurisdictions, mostly in Latin countries, the perpetrator of a crime of passion or “crime passionel” is usually acquitted because “he couldn’t help himself.” Because of this reasoning, the Philippine justice system considers “having acted upon an impulse so powerful as naturally to have produced passion or obfuscation” a circumstance that mitigates criminal liability. Not only that, but Article 247 of the Revised Penal Code expressly provides that if a person catches his spouse in flagrante delicto with another person and kills one or both of them as a consequence, he shall only suffer the penalty of destierro, or exile, and this only to protect him from the vengeance of the relatives of his victims. This provision, which makes the Philippines one of the few jurisdictions which recognize the “crime of passion” defense, is a holdover from the old Spanish Penal Code, which was in force in the Philippines from 1886 to 1930, a revised form of which became the Revised Penal Code of the Philippines.

From pre-Hispanic to modern-day Filipinos, here are eight examples of the dark side of love.

Datu Sumakwel, Kapinangan and Guronggurong

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According to the Maragtas legend about the ten Bornean datus, after the leader of the datus, Datu Puti, left Panay, Datu Sumakwel became leader in his place. But even with her husband’s position, power and wealth, the datu’s wife, Kapinangan, was not satisfied with him. She had an affair with her husband’s vassal, Guronggurong. Sumakwel discovered the affair and pretended to go on a long trip but instead hid himself in the ceiling. When he saw the two lovers “in the act”, he speared Guronggurong, who was killed instantly, but he did not show himself. This would have been a simple crime of passion, except that Kapinangan, at her wit’s end with the dead body of a man in her room and her husband due to return, cut up the dead body of her lover in order to make its disposal easier.

Juan Luna and Paz Pardo de Tavera

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Juan Luna, a Filipino painter internationally acclaimed for his “Spoliarium”, shot and killed his wife, Maria Paz Pardo de Tavera, and his mother-in-law Juliana, in their house, Villa Dupont in the Rue Pergolese in Paris, France. Luna was jealous because he thought that his wife was having an affair with a Frenchman. However, when he wanted to relocate his family to Spain, the Pardo de Taveras refused to let him take his wife and son because they were afraid that with Luna’s temper, he might hurt his wife without them to intervene. They wanted Paz to leave Luna instead. Upon learning this, Luna flew into a rage and killed his wife and his mother-in-law, and wounded his brother-in-law Felix. He was put on trial in France for the killings, but was acquitted.

Bernardo “Narding” Anzures and Lilian Velez

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Narding Anzures, a former child actor, was the leading man of Lilian Velez in several films. Anzures found out that Lilian was going to have another leading man, Jaime de la Rosa. On the night of June 26, 1948, he broke into Velez’s house and stabbed her and her housemaid to death. The only surviving witness was Velez’s four-year-old daughter. Anzures was tried and convicted of murder, and later died in prison of tuberculosis.

Emmanuel and Norma Desalisa

According to the facts in the case of People of the Philippines vs. Emmanuel Desalisa, G.R. No. 95262 January 4, 1994, on October 9, 1983, in Sorsogon, 24-year-old Emmanuel Desalisa killed his 18-year-old wife Norma by hanging her by the neck from a branch of the jackfruit tree in their yard. Norma was about 5 months pregnant at that time. Desalisa’s in-laws testified at the trial that their son-in-law often hit their daughter because he suspected her of having an affair and he thought that the child she was carrying was not his. Desalisa was convicted of parricide with unintentional abortion and sentenced to reclusion perpetua.

Paco Larranaga and Marijoy Chiong

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On July 16, 1997, Marijoy Chiong and her sister Jacqueline were abducted in front of a mall in Cebu City. The bound and gagged body of Marijoy was later recovered from a ravine in Carcar, Cebu; Jacqueline’s body was never found. A former suitor of Marijoy, Francisco Juan “Paco” Larrañaga, was later convicted for the kidnapping and rape-slay, along with six of his friends, and sentenced to death by lethal injection. Larrañaga was 17 years old when the crime was committed.

Jonathan Nyce and Michelle Rivera

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In 1989, 19-year-old Michelle Rivera of Orion, Bataan, met 38-year-old Jonathan Nyce, then an up-and-coming American professor in cancer research, through a newspaper ad. They became penpals for about a year before they got married and Jonathan brought Michelle to the United States. They had been married for more than ten years and had three children when they hit financial difficulties when Nyce’s pharmaceutical company went bankrupt. Michelle had an affair with a Guatemalan immigrant who later tried to blackmail Nyce for half a million dollars in exchange for sexually explicit videos of Michelle with another man. Early in the morning of January 16, 2004, after Michelle came home from a tryst with her lover, Nyce came out of the house, dragged her from the car, and repeatedly smashed her head into the garage floor, causing her death. He then put her dead body in the car, which he sent off a bridge into a creek about a mile from their New Jersey home. Nyce was sentenced to 8 years in prison for Michelle’s death in September 2005. The jury meted a light sentence because they found the killing to be a crime of passion.

Hubert Webb and Carmela Vizconde

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Perhaps the most infamous “massacre” case in the Philippines in recent times is the June 30, 1991, “Vizconde Massacre” in BF Homes, Parañaque. Estrellita Vizconde, 57, and her daughters, 19-year-old Carmela and 7-year-old Anna Marie Jennifer, were murdered in their own home, Carmela after being raped. Three years later, after several sets of suspects and the corresponding number of trials, Maria Jessica Alfaro came forward claiming that a group led by Hubert Webb, son of former senator Freddy Webb, was responsible for the murders. According to Alfaro, Hubert Webb, a rejected admirer of Carmela, had planned to rape Carmela, and ended up killing Carmela and her mother and sister. On January 4, 2000, a Parañaque Regional Trial Court convicted Webb and company of rape with homicide and sentenced them to reclusion perpetua.

Stephen Mark Whisenhunt and Elsa Santos Castillo

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The most well-known “crime of passion” in the Philippines, as well as the goriest, could very well be the murder of Elsa Santos Castillo by Stephen Mark Whisenhunt. Whisenhunt and Castillo had an affair, although both were already married to other people. On September 24, 1993, Whisenhunt stabbed and killed Castillo in his condo in Greenhills, San Juan, Metro Manila, then dismembered her body and threw away the different body parts along the road to Bagac, Bataan. The mutilated parts were later recovered by different persons in different places, spawning the term “chop-chop lady”. The Pasig City Regional Trial Court found Whisenhunt guilty of murder and sentenced him to reclusion perpetua.

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