On September 27, 1995, a 27-year-old navy officer from Cebu was found dead inside his ship (BRP Bacolod City), traveling from Cavite to Manila. According to fellow navy officers at the crime scene, Ensign Philip Andrew Pestaño reportedly took a gun and pulled a trigger on himself after a devastating breakup with his then-girlfriend. There was also a suicide note found.
However, Philip's family did not believe that he killed himself. They claimed that Philip is on the verge of exposing his fellow officers for utilizing the BRP Bacolod City to move illegal firearms, logs, and drugs, but he was silenced before he could even reveal the anomalies.
Based on the National Bureau of Investigation and forensic pathologist's reports, Philip's death was declared as a suicide. However, former Senator Marcelo Fernan, chair of the Senate Committee on Justice in the Tenth Congress, investigated the Pestano case and filed a 48-page finding that Pestano did not kill himself.
Unfortunately, the Office of the Ombudsman refused to re-open the Pestano death case, saying it was a "waste of time" because of the passage of time and because the pieces of evidence had been tampered with.
In 2005, ten years after the alleged suicide of Philip Andrew Pestaño, then-Senator and former NBI Director Alfredo Lim called for a Senate investigation into the alleged "cover-up" of the "murder" of Philip Andrew Pestaño.
According to Lim, "two shots were fired as indicated by the bullet holes in the wall. A man who shoots himself in the temple will have no opportunity to shoot himself a second time," he also noted that the bullet that hit Pestano's head had a downward trajectory.
Furthermore, the re-investigation found an absence of gun residue from the hands of Philip Pestaño, and the gun that was found at the crime scene was not the same gun that killed the victim. Following the newly learned information, there was probable cause to believe that foul play was committed.
Another essential piece of information was propounded by Senator Lim. He said that the cover-up had resulted in the mysterious disappearance of two navy personnel, including the radio operator who had received reports about the illegal drugs on board the BRP Bacolod City, and told Philip Pestaño about it. The second, said to be a witness, was reportedly washed overboard.
The case almost took a hard-turn after former Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierez dismissed the Pestaño family's complaint against Navy officers who allegedly conspired to the murder. However, in 2012, then Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales re-opened the case and recommended the dismissal of the ten other navy officers involved in killing Philip Andrew Pestaño.
Based on the re-investigation, the suicide note initially thought to be written by Philip was declared false. According to the authorities, the suicide note was written by different people. The gun used in the cover-up was different from Philip's firearm, and the travel time allotted during that unfateful day took 2 hours, which was longer than the usual 45 minutes to reach Manila from Cavite.
In 2014, a witness came forward to shed light on the controversial death of Philip Andrew Pestaño after 19 years. Witness Protection Program personnel secured Technical Sergeant Dionisio Samiran as he faced the Manila trial court for the first time.
According to Samiran, who headed an investigation team that probed Pestaño's death, he stated that Petty Officer 1st Class Carlito Amoroso, one of the accused, had admitted involvement in the killing of Philip Pestaño as the supposed gunman. His court appearance coincided with the arraignment of eight of the 10 suspects linked to the slaying of Ensign Philip Andrew Pestaño.
In 2017, it seemed that injustice prevailed once more, a trial court in Manila allowed eight of the ten suspects and enlisted personnel facing murder charges to post bail worth 200,000 pesos. Based on the court's decision, the ruling stated, "While there is a strong indication that Philip did not commit suicide and that someone killed him in view of the fact that apparently the suicide note was not written by one and the same person; the gunshot was allegedly fired at a distance of more than three feet, hence, a physical impossibility of suicide, the presence of a lacerated wound, an injury, allegedly, totally unrelated to the shooting as it was not in the trajectory of the bullet that entered the right temple and exited on the left temple of Philip's head, the Court is not prepared to conclude that the evidence strongly suggests that all the accused in this case are the perpetrators thereof," the court also added "mere inconsistencies" on the testimonies of the eight accused during the investigation on the incident "will not strongly suggest the conclusion that they were in unison to perpetrate the crime."
So far, there are no updates from this case. Let us hope that Philip Andrew Pestaño and his family would finally get the justice they deserve.
ABOUT PH MURDER STORIES