The Salvacion Case
In 1989, Greg Bartelli, an American tourist, was arrested for committing four counts of rape and serious illegal detention against Karen Salvacion. Police recovered from him several dollar checks and a dollar account in the China Banking Corp. He was, however, able to escape from prison. In a civil case filed against him, the trial court awarded Salvacion moral, exemplary and attorney’s fees amounting to almost P1,000,000.00.
Although the main issue of the case revolves around the execution of judgment on the dollar deposit of Bartelli with the China Banking Corp., the horrifying account of the case brought about that rare reversal of established rules to serve justice, at least, even a bit of it. Here are the details:
Karen, only 12 years old that time, took her first year high school in St. Mary's Academy in Pasay City but has recently transferred to Arellano University for her second year. In the afternoon of February 4, 1989, Karen was at the Plaza Fair Makati Cinema Square, with her friend Edna Tangile whiling away her free time. At about 3:30 p.m. while she was finishing her snack on a concrete bench in front of Plaza Fair, an American approached her. She was then alone because Edna Tangile had already left, and she was about to go home.
The American asked her name and introduced himself as Greg Bartelli. He sat beside her when he talked to her. He said he was a Math teacher and told her that he has a sister who is a nurse in New York. His sister allegedly has a daughter who is about Karen's age and who was with him in his house along Kalayaan Avenue. The American asked Karen what was her favorite subject and she told him it's Pilipino. He then invited her to go with him to his house where she could teach Pilipino to his niece. He even gave her a stuffed toy to persuade her to teach his niece.
When they reached the apartment house, Karen noticed that defendant's alleged niece was not outside the house but defendant told her maybe his niece was inside. Upon entering the bedroom defendant suddenly locked the door. Karen became nervous because his niece was not there. Defendant got a piece of cotton cord and tied Karen's hands with it, and then he undressed her. Karen cried for help but defendant strangled her. He took a packing tape and he covered her mouth with it and he circled it around her head.
Then, defendant suddenly pushed Karen towards the bed which was just near the door. He tied her feet and hands spread apart to the bed posts. He knelt in front of her and inserted his finger in her sex organ. She felt severe pain. She tried to shout but no sound could come out because there were tapes on her mouth. When defendant withdrew his finger it was full of blood and Karen felt more pain after the withdrawal of the finger. He then got a Johnson's Baby Oil and he applied it to his sex organ as well as to her sex organ. After that he forced his sex organ into her but he was not able to do so. While he was doing it, Karen found it difficult to breathe and she perspired a lot while feeling severe pain. She merely presumed that he was able to insert his sex organ a little, because she could not see. Karen could not recall how long the defendant was in that position.
After that, he stood up and went to the bathroom to wash. He also told Karen to take a shower and he untied her hands. Karen could only hear the sound of the water while the defendant, she presumed, was in the bathroom washing his sex organ. When she took a shower more blood came out from her. In the meantime, defendant changed the mattress because it was full of blood. After the shower, Karen was allowed by defendant to sleep. She fell asleep because she got tired crying. The incident happened at about 4:00 p.m. Karen had no way of determining the exact time because defendant removed her watch. Defendant did not care to give her food before she went to sleep. Karen woke up at about 8:00 o'clock the following morning.
The following day, February 5, 1989, a Sunday, after a breakfast of biscuit and coke at about 8:30 to 9:00 a.m. defendant raped Karen while she was still bleeding. For lunch, they also took biscuit and coke. She was raped for the second time at about 12:00 to 2:00 p.m. In the evening, they had rice for dinner which defendant had stored downstairs; it was he who cooked the rice that is why it looks like "lugaw". For the third time, Karen was raped again during the night. During those three times defendant succeeded in inserting his sex organ but she could not say whether the organ was inserted wholly.
Karen did not see any firearm or any bladed weapon. The defendant did not tie her hands and feet nor put a tape on her mouth anymore but she did not cry for help for fear that she might be killed; besides, all the windows and doors were closed. And even if she shouted for help, nobody would hear her. She was so afraid that if somebody would hear her and would be able to call the police, it was still possible that as she was still inside the house, defendant might kill her. Besides, the defendant did not leave that Sunday, ruling out her chance to call for help. At nighttime he slept with her again.
On February 6, 1989, Monday, Karen was raped three times, once in the morning for thirty minutes after a breakfast of biscuits; again in the afternoon; and again in the evening. At first, Karen did not know that there was a window because everything was covered by a carpet, until defendant opened the window for around fifteen minutes or less to let some air in, and she found that the window was covered by styrofoam and plywood. After that, he again closed the window with a hammer and he put the styrofoam, plywood, and carpet back.
That Monday evening, Karen had a chance to call for help, although defendant left but kept the door closed. She went to the bathroom and saw a small window covered by styrofoam and she also spotted a small hole. She stepped on the bowl and she cried for help through the hole. She cried: "Maawa no po kayo so akin. Tulungan n'yo akong makalabas dito. Kinidnap ako!" Somebody heard her. It was a woman, probably a neighbor, but she got angry and said she was "istorbo". Karen pleaded for help and the woman told her to sleep and she will call the police (“Itulog mu na lang yan at saka ako tawag ng pulis”) . She finally fell asleep but no policeman came.
She woke up at 6:00 o'clock the following morning, and she saw defendant in bed, this time sleeping. She waited for him to wake up. When he woke up, he again got some food but he always kept the door locked. As usual, she was merely fed with biscuit and coke. On that day, February 7, 1989, she was again raped three times. The first at about 6:30 to 7:00 a.m., the second at about 8:30 — 9:00, and the third was after lunch at 12:00 noon. After he had raped her for the second time he left but only for a short while. Upon his return, he caught her shouting for help but he did not understand what she was shouting about. After she was raped the third time, he left the house. She again went to the bathroom and shouted for help. After shouting for about five minutes, she heard many voices. The voices were asking for her name and she gave her name as Karen Salvacion. After a while, she heard a voice of a woman saying they will just call the police. They were also telling her to change her clothes. She went from the bathroom to the room but she did not change her clothes being afraid that should the neighbors call for the police and the defendant see her in different clothes, he might kill her. At that time she was wearing a T-shirt of the American because the latter washed her dress.
Afterwards, defendant arrived and he opened the door. He asked her if she had asked for help because there were many policemen outside and she denied it. He told her to change her clothes, and she did change to the one she was wearing on Saturday. He instructed her to tell the police that she left home and willingly; then he went downstairs but he locked the door. She could hear people conversing but she could not understand what they were saying.
When she heard the voices of many people who were conversing downstairs, she knocked repeatedly at the door as hard as she could. She heard somebody going upstairs and when the door was opened, she saw a policeman. The policeman asked her name and the reason why she was there. She told him she was kidnapped. Downstairs, he saw about five policemen in uniform and the defendant was talking to them. "Nakikipag-areglo po sa mga pulis," Karen added. "The policeman told him to just explain at the precinct.
They went out of the house and she saw some of her neighbors in front of the house. They rode the car of a certain person she called Kuya Boy together with defendant, the policeman, and two of her neighbors. They were brought to Sub-Station I and there she was investigated by a policeman. At about 2:00 a.m., her father arrived, followed by her mother together with some of their neighbors.
She was studying at the St. Mary's Academy in Pasay City at the time of the incident but she subsequently transferred to Apolinario Mabini, Arellano University, situated along Taft Avenue, because she was ashamed to be the subject of conversation in the school. She first applied for transfer to Jose Abad Santos, Arellano University along Taft Avenue near the Light Rail Transit Station but she was denied admission after she told the school the true reason for her transfer. The reason for their denial was that they might be implicated in the case.
This is truly a wicked world. Aside from Karen being detained, harassed, molested. and raped by the American, the following facts made this case even harder to take:
1. The Criminal escaped and we can’t help but think that some authorities who were handling the case were paid. Really? Escaped?
2. The woman neighbor dismissed Karen’s pleas and even told her that she is “istorbo”. Really? Or was that an ordinary sight for her. If it is, then maybe many Karens are still there, crying for help.
3. Being molested or raped is already traumatizing. To add more to her trauma, Arellano University denied her admission because they are afraid to get involved in the case. What kind of institution does this? What about empathy and a sense of concern, at least?
Although this is one of the most tragic case I’ve read, the Supreme court, at that time, showed its ‘heart’ and pursuit of justice. In its decision regarding the civil case, it held that:
“In fine, the application of the law depends on the extent of its justice. Eventually, if we rule that the questioned Section 113 of Central Bank Circular No. 960 which exempts from attachment, garnishment, or any other order or process of any court, legislative body, government agency or any administrative body whatsoever, is applicable to a foreign transient, injustice would result especially to a citizen aggrieved by a foreign guest like accused Greg Bartelli. This would negate Article 10 of the New Civil Code which provides that "in case of doubt in the interpretation or application of laws, it is presumed that the lawmaking body intended right and justice to prevail. "Ninguno non deue enriquecerse tortizeramente con dano de otro." Simply stated, when the statute is silent or ambiguous, this is one of those fundamental solutions that would respond to the vehement urge of conscience. (Padilla vs. Padilla, 74 Phil. 377)
The rules that “exempts garnishment of bank accounts of foreign transients”, does not actually have a looming “doubt” to begin with in this case. Such circular is clear and imposable. But because of the brutality of the case, the court deemed it proper to disregard the actual rules and previous jurisprudence to give Karen even a bit of justice that she deserved.
(As I've said, this is a very disturbing and haunting case, feel free to leave a comment below to tell us what you think.)