FOURTEEN out of 19 cases of politicians, mostly local chief executives murdered since 2016 have been solved by the Philippine National Police, the Journal Group learned yesterday.
PNP chief, Director General Oscar D. Albayalde has ordered massive operations against gun-for-hire syndicates and private armed groups across the country and also encouraged local executives to coordinate with the local police if they feel their lives are in danger.
Latest to be solved by PNP is the case of slain AKO Bicol Party-List Representative Rodel Batocabe and his policeman-bodyguard last December 22. Twelve days after the daring attack which also wounded 7 senior citizens, Gen. Albayalde declared that ‘the ‘case is solved but not closed’ following the identification of Daraga, Albay Mayor Carlwin Baldo as the ‘brains’ behind the killing.
Joined by PNP Criminal Investigation and Detection Group director, Chief Superintendent Amador V. Corpus and PNP Intelligence Group director, Senior Supt. Edgar Monsalve, Gen. Albayalde said persons involved in the assassination try surrendered to the police and pointed to Mayor Baldo as the one who masterminded the attack.
According to the official, the names of 7 persons of interest, all employed as confidential staff of the Office of the Municipal Mayor of Daraga, Albay have surfaced in the investigation jointly conducted by the PNP-IG, the CIDG and the Police Regional Office 5 headed by Chief Superintendent Arnel B. Escobal.
He said that one of the 7 identified as Christopher Cabrera Naval alias ‘Tuping,’ a known trusted security aide of Mayor Baldo was forced to surrender to the PNP-IG last December 30 due to the relentless police operations jointly conducted by combined elements of the Police Regional Office 5 Special Investigation Task Group Batocabe, the CIDG and the PNP-IG.
Naval claimed that the assassination plot was hatched sometime in August 2018 when Batocabe announced his plan to seek the Daraga mayoralty post. Naval and a co-accused identified as Emmanuel Judavar testified that Mayor Baldo allegedly offered P5-million for the hit job on Batocabe last September and paid an initial amount of P250,000 to the group for the purchase of guns and motorcycles they needed in carrying out the hit job.
However, questions still persist on the failure of the police to have breakthroughs on their investigation into 3 deadly ambuscades in Ilocos-Pangasinan region last year. Those unsolved killings of politicians have put a dent on the otherwise good performance of the Police Regional Office 1 in the anti-crime campaign, officials told the Journal Group.
Since General Albayalde became the country’s top cop last April 19, he has ordered the administrative relief of 4 Police Regional Office directors who all happened to be his mistahs from the Philippine Military Academy ‘Singtala’ Class of 1986.
In May 12 last year, former La Union Representative Eufranio Eriguel, his two aides and a supporter were killed by gunmen who attacked them as they were attending a Sangguniang Kabataan meeting in Barangay Capas in Agoo municipality.
Last October 1, assassins shot dead Sudipen Mayor Alexander Buquing, his policeman-bodyguard and a driver during a daring attack that also wounded the mayor’s wife, Vice-Mayor Wendy Joy Buquing.
Three weeks after Buquing was murdered, gunmen killed Balaoan, La Union Vice-Mayor Alfred Concepcion and wounded his daughter Mayor Aleli Concepcion.
In these 3 incidents, the local police suspected that guns-for-hire working for political rivals of the victims were behind the deadly attacks. However, the local police are yet to announce any progress into the investigation of those incidents. The killings came in the wake of the PNP leadership’s directive for a massive crackdown against partisan armed groups, guns-for-hire and loose firearms that could be used to sow terror during the May 2019 mid-term polls.
Last year, PNP spokesman, Chief Superintendent Benigno B. Durana Jr. said that 13 out of 18 cases of killings of local chief executives under the Duterte administration were solved.
The official said investigation showed that the murder of Marcos town, Ilocos Norte Mayor Arsenio Agustino on June 3, 2017; Vice-Mayor Alex Lubigan of Trece Martires, Cavite, on July 7, 2018; and Vice-Mayor Al-Rashid Mohammad Ali of Sapa-Sapa town, Tawi-Tawi last July 11, 2018, were all politically motivated.
A business rivalry was considered the motive in the killing of mayor Ferdinand Bote of General Tinio town in Nueva Ecija on July 3, 2018.
The PNP said the deaths of Vice-Mayor Anwar Sindatuk of Datu Saudi-Ampatuan town, Maguindanao, on November 27, 2016, and Mayor Mohammad Limbona of Pantar town, Lanao del Norte, December 30, 2016, could be due to clan rivalry or “rido.”
Then there are the cases of mayors who were killed in police operations namely Mayor Samsudin Dimaukom of Datu Saudi Ampatuan town, Maguindanao on October 28, 2016; Mayor Rolando Espinosa of Albuera town, Leyte on November 5, 2016; and Mayor Reynaldo Parojinog of Ozamiz City, Misamis Occidental on July 30, 2017.
The PNP said that the killing of Vice Mayor Jackson Dy of Roxas, Oriental Mindoro on September 23, 2017, was due to a personal grudge.
The killing of Mayor Ronald Tirol of Buenavista, Bohol on May 27, 2018 was also reported as solved by the police although there is still no clear motive behind the murder.
On the other hand, the murder of Mayor Joven Hidalgo of Balete, Batangas on June 10, 2017, was reportedly due to vengeance. In another case, Bien Unido husband, of Bohol Mayor Gisela Boniel was charged with her murder although the victim’s body remained missing.
Still under close investigation by the PNP are the killing of Vice Mayor Aaron Sampaga of Pamplona, Cagayan on August 5, 2016; Mayor Antonio Halili of Tanauan City, Batangas on July 2 last year; Vice-Mayor Jonah John Ungab of Ronda, Cebu on February 19 last year; and Mayor Mariano Blanco III of Ronda, Cebu on September 5, 2018.
The PNP has created a National Investigation Task Group to monitor each Special Investigation Task Group (SITG) focused on each case.