A Tale of Two Wives, Two Deaths

Over the past few weeks, we have been monitoring, with growing alarm, two tragic stories of two women who shared the same fate – death, brutal, grisly death.

As women, when we read about crimes committed against our fellow women, we have the propensity to feel the need for retribution. We instantly feel a tinge of connection to the victim. We think of our dear mothers, sisters, daughters, female friends, and acquaintances – it could have been them in the victim’s shoes. And, our overactive imagination sometimes go where we must not, playing similar scenarios in our head, with our loved ones in the scene. Horrifying and really heartbreaking.

Toward the end of last month, two women were reported to have disappeared. There were striking similarities between them. Both were married, albeit under different circumstances. Both were mothers. Both met their end in a ghastly manner – killed, in gruesome fashion.

Tania Camille Dee

Tania Camille Dee, 37, is a single mother of two. She used to work as a bank teller and was, according to her mother, Liza Dee, the family’s breadwinner, She was estranged from her husband, Fidel Sheldon Arcenas, the prime suspect in her killing.

Tania went missing on June 20 after meeting with Arcenas, who reportedly promised to give her a car. A CCTV footage from a Japanese restaurant showed Tania and Arcenas meeting before she disappeared.

Tania never got home since, prompting her mother to inform Tania’s friends about the matter. A day after, Tania’s friends mounted a search campaign for her on social media

After a week-long search, Tania’s body was found before dawn on Sunday, June 28, in a house being rented out by the mom of Arcenas’ girlfriend, Angela Dychioco. It was Angela’s mother, Regina, who told police that Tania may have been dead and buried in her house in Angeles City.

Autopsy results showed that Tania was shot in the back of her head, with the bullet exiting through her left cheek. It also showed that Tania had been starved for three to four days before she was shot dead.

A few weeks after the case hugged the headlines, Angela submitted a testimony to the police, confessing her involvement in the murder. According to Angela, she found Tania’s body lying in a pool of blood in her mother’s house. She also disclosed that Arcenas asked her to help him bury the body. She said she relented because she feared for her life.

Arcenas, who remains at large, has been charged with parricide while Angela has been charged with murder. Angela and her mother were also recommended to be placed under Witness Protection Program.

Gloria’s story

Gloria Gonzales, 47, is the wife of PLDT executive, John Gonzales. She has three children. According to reports, she was last seen at around 1:30 p.m. on June 25 when she left their house in Parañaque City. The last signal transmission from her mobile phone was detected in Barangay Acasia, Silang, Cavite at around 2:30 p.m., an hour after she left their house. She never returned home.

Gloria’s family sought the help of authorities to locate her. Since the last transmission from her phone was from Silang, Cavite, the provincial police went to work; searching for her and the gold Toyota Innova (UOS 146) she was last seen riding.

On Sunday morning, June 28, a certain Chester Gerodias reported to Laguna police that a foul odor was emanating from an abandoned Innova parked just outside his residence along Gonzales St., Purok 5, in Barangay San Vicente, Biñan City. Gerodias said the Innova has been parked there since Thursday, the day Gloria disappeared.

Biñan police went to check on the parked Innova and made a startling discovery – they found Gloria’s body covered with a blanket, her hands and feet tied, and her mouth taped.

Her personal belongings were gone, including the jewelry she was selling.

Gloria’s body was immediately brought to a funeral house in Sta. Rosa, Laguna. To date, investigators are still facing a blank wall and her family is appealing to anyone who can provide leads to aid investigation.

Unclear Motive, Muddy Details,

While there are new developments on Tania’s case, Gloria’s doesn’t seem to progress.

Arcenas and his girlfriend, Dychioco have been charged before the Department of Justice but the motive behind the crime has not been established.

The fact that the victim agreed to meet with the suspect, with whom she has two children, tells us that Tania and her estranged husband maintain a civil relationship. The fact that she reportedly met with Arcenas because he is giving her a car tells us that a certain degree of trust is involved. If the estranged couple were not in good terms, why would Tania agree to travel all the way to Pampanga to see her ex-husband? Why would he give Tania a car? Is it for their children?

Now, let’s go to Angela. Reports said Arcenas and Angela are live-in partners. Angela knows Tania and appears to have no qualms about Tania and Arcenas meeting. Based on initial investigation, the two borrowed the key of the house where Tania’s body was found from Angela’s mother. If they did not intend to kill Tania and bury her in the house, why did they borrow the house key? Now, if they indeed committed the crime inside said house, why did they bother to return the key two days before the body was found? Something doesn’t add up. Also, it wasn’t clear whether Arcenas was with Angela when he met with Tania. Arcenas even claimed that he and Dee had dinner in a Japanese restaurant at Barangay Balibago before she disappeared without a trace. Arcenas reportedly gave conflicting details on the circumstances of their parting after the meeting: saying at one point he brought her to the bus station, and in another claim, that he left her on the highway. Can one sense a crime of passion here?

Why did Angela tell her mother that Tania might already be dead and buried in her house? And why did the mother report said information to the police right after? Wasn’t she afraid that her daughter might be implicated in the crime? Angela has been charged with murder. She confessed she had a hand in burying Tania’s body but not in her killing. But the question is, did she take part in planning the murder?

Is it possible that Angela orchestrated the murder herself because she’s jealous of Tania? Did she pin the blame on Arcenas just so she could float her innocence? Is she playing victim, too, thinking that by doing so she wouldn’t be charged as gravely?

Now, the car. Arcenas reportedly met with Tania to give her a car. Where is the car then? Is the car supposedly to be given to Tania, a mere trap? Was it part of the plan to kill Tania?

Or, should we look at the possibility that theft is involved? What if after Tania got the car, somebody attacked the estranged couple and Tania was shot? What if the suspects fled, leaving Arcenas running headless, not knowing what to do but to enlist the help of Angela to get rid of the body? What happened to the car was never mentioned in reports. It remains another piece of the puzzle.

At present, Angela and her mother are looking at the possibility of being turned into state witnesses while Arcenas remains in hiding.

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Gloria’s case seems simpler. But media reports are pretty vague, leaving out significant details.

Was Gloria the one driving the Innova or was she with a driver when she left their house? What aided the police in tracking her location was the last signal transmission from her mobile phone. Was she able to call or text home an hour after leaving home? If someone contacted her home through her mobile phone, then Gloria must have made the call/text herself because her hands were free at that time. Now, if she was with a driver, why wasn’t it mentioned in reports? Most newspapers and online sites said she was “riding” an Innova, not “driving”. If she was with a driver, why wasn’t there any mention of the driver?

Now, police can only surmise that the motive behind the killing was robbery. Gloria was engaged in jewelry selling. When her body was found, all her belongings, including the jewelry she was selling, were gone. It can also be assumed that Gloria resisted her attacker/s because packaging tape was used to tie her hands and feet and cover her mouth, an obvious means to silence her.

No mention was likewise made of the cause of death even when it was earlier reported that the body would be subjected to autopsy.

No leads have been established on the identity of the perpetrators.

Women’s vulnerability to crimes

Can we consider women as “ideal victims” of crimes? According to Chris Greer, professor at the Department of Sociology and Center for Law Justice and Journalism in City University London, an “ideal victim” is a person or category of individuals who, when hit by crime, most readily are given the complete and legitimate status of being a victim’. This group includes those who are perceived as vulnerable, defenseless, innocent, and worthy of sympathy and compassion. Elderly women and young children, it is suggested, are typical ‘ideal victims’. Based on that premise, Tania and Gloria fit the bill as ideal victims. Their plight instantly drew attention, sympathy, and compassion from people, especially since they were featured prominently on social media.

These two grisly tales tell us that we, women, are vulnerable to such grim fate and that such crime can happen to anyone, not just women, anytime, anywhere.

The harsh reality that even persons we know or trust can be capable of hurting us and subjecting us to violence of unimaginable extent is both disconcerting and disgusting.

What women can do

Tania and Gloria are now part of the statistics. The horrific crime committed against them is not by any means an isolated case. We see gruesome murders in the papers and on social media every single day.

Yes, women are vulnerable but we can do something to address our perceived and actual weakness.

Here are a few practical tips that will help us defend ourselves against impending danger.

  • Always be alert, aware, and confident.
  • If you sense danger and that potential attackers are around, let them know you are aware of their presence.
  • Know when to resist and when to give in.
  • Learn and apply self-defense tricks
  • Be resourceful and make use of whatever tools are at your disposal against your attacker.
  • Carry a legal weapon and be ready to use it.
  • Yell for help.

While we can’t make sense of crime and violence and why people are capable of committing it, we always can learn something from every inconceivable act of crime and violence we see and hear about. And we can always use it as an opportunity to better equip ourselves to prevent falling prey to such unspeakable transgressions.