Quiapo road rage killer sorry: He denied biker’s handshake
“Nagdilim lang talaga paningin ko (I just snapped).”
This was how Vhon Martin Tanto, black-eyed and handcuffed, summed up the moment that suddenly changed the course of his life—and ended that of Mark Vincent Garalde, the man he shot dead in a road altercation in Quiapo, Manila, on the night of July 25. Presented at the Manila Police District (MPD) headquarters a day after he surrendered in Masbate province, Tanto publicly apologized to the Garalde family, whose members were present in a press conference held by Philippine National Police chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa.
The 39-year-old Tanto, who was also revealed to be a reservist Army private when the MPD tagged him as the suspect in the road rage incident, later underwent inquest proceedings at the Department of Justice. He was formally accused of murder and frustrated murder. The second charge stemmed from the case of Rocel Bondoc, an 18-year-old college student who was hit by a stray bullet in the back when Tanto shot Garalde several times.
What video didn’t show
The incident was captured on security camera on P. Casal Street, where the two men—Tanto driving a compact car, Garalde on a bike—crossed paths. A now viral video showed Tanto and Garalde getting into a two-minute fistfight, then walking back to their vehicles, Garalde reapproaching the car, and Tanto getting out again to shoot the biker. Facing reporters at the MPD, Tanto gave his version of what happened, from what took place off-camera to their heated verbal exchanges. He said he was passing through the area that night looking for a gas station after coming from Bulacan. His 4-year-old daughter was asleep in the back seat. (A Manila police investigator earlier said he was with a woman in the vehicle.) He was exiting Vergara Street and Garalde was heading toward Ayala Bridge when they almost hit each other, causing Tanto to suddenly veer to the right and step on the brakes. He then honked his horn at Garalde.
‘Kuya, I’m sorry’
“I thought that was just OK with him,” Tanto recalled in Filipino. “I didn’t know he chased me. When I saw him doing this, I stopped, rolled down my window and said, ‘Kuya (brother), I’m sorry.’ We didn’t hit each other, but bicycles should stick to the side, especially since they don’t have lights.” But Garalde, he said, snarled back with an insult—“G–o ka!”—and called him an “arrogant driver.” They then traded invectives, which awakened Tanto’s daughter and made her cry. “He told me that if I’m brave enough I should get out of the car. So I did…and we started fighting,” Tanto said. He conceded being knocked hard—“napuruhan ako”—and that he “almost died” when Garalde had him in a headlock. After Garalde released the “weakened” Tanto, “I picked up my slippers and went back to the car.” In the video, Garalde at this point was seen walking toward the car and appeared to be extending his hand inside the vehicle. According to Tanto, Garalde “was going to shake my hand because he saw the Philippine Army sticker on the car. Perhaps he realized that I was a soldier.”
“I rejected (his gesture). I said it’s already OK because we’ve already let off steam. I just shoved his hand away.” He then noticed that Garalde also left his bicycle leaning against his car, so he asked him to remove it lest his car get another scratch. Garalde purportedly responded: “How arrogant you are! If you want, I will break your windshield!” That’s when Tanto reached for the .45-caliber pistol he was keeping in the car, stepped out to walk a few paces to get near Garalde, then pulled the trigger. Leaving the crime scene, he said, he was initially afraid to surrender to the authorities, since “killing (crime suspects) is a trend nowadays.” He instead brought his daughter back to their Quiapo residence and went to his brother’s house in Baliauag, Bulacan.
Fearing for family’s safety
“The following day I was in Nueva Vizcaya. I met with my brother-in-law. He picked me up. I left my car and my gun with him. I said that if there would be any problems, give those to the police. And then I left.” He then met his wife and child in Cubao. From there, he took them to her hometown in Masbate to ensure their safety since he felt they were already in danger in their Quiapo neighborhood. Tanto maintained he was never arrested and that his surrender to a village chair on Friday was coordinated with his Army reserve unit through his brother-in-law. In a message to the Garaldes, he said: “I’m really sorry. I didn’t mean for this to happen. I’m really sorry. Nagdilim lang talaga paningin ko.” “To those who are listening, I’m sorry to all of you.”