BACK in her native Naga City, homicide suspect Bella Ruby Santos was locked up at 9 a.m. yesterday in a jail cell with three other women to await trial.
“Bisan asa, okay ra man ko (Anywhere they put me, I’m all right),” Santos told Cebu Daily News shortly before she stepped into the six-square-meter concrete room.
She was still dressed in the pantsuit and heels she wore upon arrival at the airport the day before.
Her lawyers are preparing to file a petition for her bail.
Her arraignment is set on Oct. 24.
Santos, 35, one of two principal suspects in the kidnapping and killing of 6-year-old Ellah Joy Pique, was in high spirits, cracking jokes with reporters who followed her from the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) 7 office where she had spent the night.
“Daghan mang gwapo (There are many good-looking guys here),” she said when asked how she found the jail.
Male inmates locked up in a cell beside hers pressed close to the bars ogling the newcomer.
Her concrete cell has grill bars and a small window.
The Naga City jail is crowded with 91 inmates, which exceeds its 60-inmate capacity, said Senior Jail Officer Pidie Hitalada, deputy warden.
“There will be no special treatment here,” Hitalada told reporters.
An hour earlier, a more muted Santos was presented to Cebu Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia at the Capitol by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) 7 led by Regional NBI-7 Director Edward Villarta.
Santos again wore a bulletproof vest atop her blouse. She was handcuffed.
Santos didn’t say a word when she briefly held the governor’s hands in greeting and slightly bowed her head.
Santos was accompanied by her lawyer Rameses Villagonzalo and her sister Marion Lalican.
“We submit to the jurisdiction of the court. We just want to put things in the proper perspective,” said Governor Garcia.
Villagonzalo said his client was “presented as a trophy,” a statement which the governor didn’t like.
Garcia lauded the NBI-7 for arresting Santos who had eluded the police for almost three months before her whereabouts were reported by a tipster who saw her shopping in SM Megamall in Mandaluyong City in Metro Manila last Friday.
After the visit to the governor’s office, Santos was brought to the nearby Palace of Justice where she was presented to Regional Trial Court Judge Ester Veloso of Branch 6, who had issued the arrest warrant.
The judge decided to commit Santos to the Naga City Jail, which has jurisdiction over crimes which happened in Minglanilla town, the place where Ellah Joy was kidnapped as she walked home from school last Feb. 8.
About 20 supporters of Santos calmly waited for her at the jail dressed in white shirts with that said: “Bella and Ian are innocent.”
In an interview, Santos’ mother Perla said they are happy that her daughter was committed to the Naga City Jail which is located near their residence in barangay Inayagan.
“Taga-adlaw gyud ko mobista. (I will visit her everyday),” Perla said.
The child victim’s father, Renante Pique, said the woman should be detained in the Cebu provincial jail.
Pique said he feared she would get special treatment in Naga.
Meanwhile, the PNP Criminal Investigation and Detection Group in Central Visayas (CIDG-7) denied they were remiss in searching for Santos, saying they searched the Visayas and Mindanao for her.
Senior Supt. Jose Pante, CIDG-7 chief, said they were thankful that the NBI managed to arrest Santos in Manila. /By Ador Vincent Mayol, Reporter with Correspondent Chito Aragon