Saying the charges against him were based on conjectures and suspicions, the lone suspect in the Manila milk tea poisoning case has denied his involvement in the April 9 incident which killed two people-one of them his father-and sent another to the hospital.
In a counteraffidavit submitted to Manila Assistant City Prosecutor Dennis Aguila on Tuesday, Lloyd Abrigo denied putting oxalic acid in the flavored powder used to make milk tea, saying he did not touch the concoction when he dropped by the family-owned milk tea store on the eve of the incident.
"On April 8, 2015, around 9 p.m., my father and I went to the ErgoCha store. I was there only to concoct new milk tea flavors such as milk oolong tea and oolong tea," Abrigo said.
He added that he was carrying just an empty plastic bottle and some candies. While he was there, he brewed some tea for himself, using ingredients taken from a refrigerator inside the establishment.
"While I was at the store, I did not touch or use the Hokkaido powder flavor since it was not one of the ingredients used in my concoctions," Abrigo said. Hokkaido was the flavor of the milk tea drank by Abrigo's father William Abrigo, Suzaine Dagohoy and Arnold Aydalla.
The elder Abrigo and Dagohoy collapsed and died shortly after, while Aydalla was hospitalised for several days.
Abrigo noted that subsequent tests by the Food and Drug Administration and a firm conducting chemical analysis showed that the Hokkaido powder flavor found inside the shop contained a high level of oxalic acid.
On the other hand, the milk tea drunk by the victims contained a smaller amount of the toxic substance commonly used as a cleaner or bleaching agent for clothes, according to the same tests.
"Those test reports only confirm that only milk tea and Hokkaido powder flavor have oxalic acid and there is no relation to what I have done with other oolong tea leaves and Mentos candies (sic).
Reason dictates that since I have done nothing with the milk tea and Hokkaido powder flavor, I could not be considered to have tampered those items (sic)," Abrigo said in his counteraffidavit. He added that he disposed of the concoctions he prepared on April 8 because he did not like their taste. On the day of the milk tea poisoning incident, he was at home and nowhere near their store, he said.
"The allegations of the witnesses and investigative reports of the officers were all based on conjectures and suspicions which could not be the bases of facts sufficient to engender a well-founded belief that I am probably guilty of the crime of murder that has been committed (sic). The only fact that the witnesses have proven and I have admitted is that I went to the store on April 8 around 9 in the evening. Nothing more, nothing less," Abrigo said.
Attached to his counteraffidavit was a statement written by Rose-Ann Limpahan, who described herself as a "trainee" at the shop. Based on the undated and unsigned statement, Limpahan said she did not see Abrigo put anything "except nata de coco" in the mixture he made on April 8.
The shop helper, Joseph Garnacio, told the police that on April 8, Abrigo brought a foul-smelling substance to the shop and used it to prepare a concoction. Based on Garnacio's testimony and the footage taken by closed-circuit television cameras in the shop, Abrigo was charged with two counts of murder and one count of frustrated homicide.