BACOLOD CITY, Negros Occidental, Philippines – A candle has started to burn inside the half-finished house of the Sotto family inside one of the residential subdivisions in Estefania village here even before the body of John Mark Sotto has arrived.
“The old ones say this is for justice. So that the conscience of his killer will be bothered,” John Mark’s wife of 11 years, Mia, tells DNX in between wiping away her tears as she sat down for an interview with DNX.
Mia had yet to “claim” his husband’s body from a funeral parlor here where it was sent from Escalante, a city 100 kilometers north of here.
John Mark, only 34, was supposed to celebrate his 11th wedding anniversary with Mia next month.
He even promised his wife on the morning of the day he was murdered, 13 August 2023, that he would take a leave of absence from the Cebu-based firm, where he works as a reefer driver, so he could take charge of house repairs.
“I don’t want you to worry about this, I want it to be done soon,” Mia recalls John Mark as telling her before he left.
That night, around 7pm, Mia sent him by private message a photo of their son who would graduate elementary this year.
“He gave a ‘heart’ react,” she said, smiling, then burst into tears as her son “will graduate without a father.”
Minutes after he saw his son’s photo, John Mark was shot on a dark stretch of tge national highway in Old Poblacion, an old part of Escalante City where he stopped over to get his and his helper’s salaries from a co-worker.
Mia said John Mark was” full of business ideas” for their family, including selling fresh fish that he planned to source from the cities of Escalante and Cadiz, areas in the province noted as good sources of marine products.
Mia added his husband also talked about a balut business and raising chickens, big dreams for a young couple wanting to improve their lot in life.
“It was only eight years ago when I went through so much pain with the death of my husband, now I am in pain again,” John Mark’s mother, Bernadette, told DNX as she voiced hopes that justice would be had for her son whom she described as “caring, loving, and generous.”
In Escalante, Major John Ganzon said their initial probe showed John Mark could have been a victim of mistaken identity based on the testimony of one of the witnesses.
The city police chief said they have confirmed John Mark had a twin and the killer seemed to have doubted the identity of the victim.
“Daw indi man ni amo (This seems to be the wrong one),” the witness heard the killer say after shooting John Mark.
Forensic evidence showed John Mark was shot eight times, most of the bullets hitting him on the chest, causing him to possibly die where he fell on the road.
Probers found eight spent shells for 45 caliber bullets fired by the killer at close range, about two to three feet, Ganzon added.
Camp Montelibano spokesman Judesses Catalogo, for his part, said an inter station coordination can be conducted by the Bacolod and Escalante police stations on the murder of John Mark Sotto.