BAYOMBONG, Nueva Vizcaya: The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) district office here recommended the filing of murder charges against the alleged lookout of the hitman of a human rights lawyer here in 2010.

    The NBI district office here led by Lawyer Bensheen Apolinar asked the provincial prosecutor’s office to file murder and obstruction of justice charges against Aries Valentin of Santiago City based on its investigation findings dated March 6.

    The NBI officer in charge of the case concluded that Valentin was the alleged driver of the Bajaj motorcycle used by the gunman “during the surveillance and eventual killing” of Lawyer Ernesto Salunat, a prominent human rights lawyer.

    On June 22, 2010, Salunat, 64, former president of the Northern Luzon Chapter of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) was shot in front of the municipal trial court in Solano town.

    The lawyer was also the campaign manager of the Liberal Party here during the 2010 synchronized presidential, congressional and local elections.

    In its recommendation, however, the NBI cleared Judy Celestino, jail guard of the Isabela provincial jail from any involvement in the killing.

    Rommel Laciste, a convicted murderer, implicated Celestino, relating that the latter released him from jail to kill Salunat.

    Laciste then admitted that he was the gunman in the killing of Salunat before the regional police office in Tuguegarao City. He also tagged retired Judge Jose Rosales of the regional trial court here as the one who hired him to kill the lawyer.

    Laciste, who hails from Isabela, implicated Celestino and Rosales in his confession, which was extracted before he was turned over to the National Bilibid Prison (NBP) in September 2013.

    Laciste escaped from the NBP where he is serving a life sentence for the 2006 killing of a provincial probation officer but claimed that he was kidnapped by unknown men on August 15, 2013, hours after convicted road rage killer Rolito Go resurfaced from an overnight disappearance.

    In 2013, the prosecutor’s office cleared Rosales from any involvement in the Salunat killing “for lack of probable cause.”

    The prosecutor cited NBI findings showing that Laciste never mentioned Rosales during his confession contrary to what has been stated in his first affidavit extracted by the police regional office.

    But in Laciste’s second affidavit extracted inside the national penitentiary, the NBI said that he did not mention the name of Rosales in his confession before the local police on August 27, 2012.

    The NBI said: “Laciste emphasized that he did not mention the name of Judge [Jose] Rosales and that he did not know how the name was stated in his confession. Worthy to note is the fact that Laciste is unable to read and write.”

    The NBI officer in charge of the case said that Laciste has a “penchant for concocting lies.”

    This, he said, is bolstered by the fact that the lone eyewitness in the shooting of Salunat claimed that Laciste was not the hitman.


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