Murder charges were filed on Thursday against two members of a police team that escorted two leaders of the Ozamis Group who were killed last week while allegedly trying to escape.
Interior Secretary Mar Roxas described the killing of Ricky Cadavero and Wilfred Panolinga Jr., was well-planned.
“Based on the witness testimonies and evidence, it is clear that the killings of the members of the Ozamis Group was planned and executed by members of the police,” Roxas said in a hastily called press briefing in Camp Crame.
He said the charges were filed following investigation by the Philippine National Police (PNP) Directorate for Personnel Records Management (DPRM) and Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG).
Charged with murder were Senior Insp. Manuel Magat and Insp. Efren Oco, both detailed with the Regional Special Operations Group (RSOG) of the Southern Tagalog police.
Roxas said charges of perjury and obstruction were filed against the rest of the RSOG team that took custody of the two gang leaders from personnel of the Bureau of Corrections (Bucor).
Facing perjury charges are Senior Insp. Fernando Cardona; SPO1s Joseph Ortega, Jayson Semacas and Genaro de Gala; PO3s Marvin Mejia, Ramil Gonzales and Sherwin Bulan; PO2s Eduardo Cruz, Kristofferson Reyes, Exiel Reyes and Conrado Bautista and PO1 Ryan Rey Gado.
The RSOG chief, Supt. Danilo Mendoza, has been sacked and the rest of the team slapped with violation of PD 1829 or Obstruction in the Prosecution of a Criminal Offender and accessories to the crime, Roxas said.
“It doesn’t take an investigator to determine that there was an attempt to silence Cadavero and Panolinga and forever hide the involvement of several police officers,” he said.
The secretary said the killings were planned since Cadavero and Panolinga were arrested by elements of the Dasmarinas City Police but ended up in RSOG custody.
He said the RSOG team took custody of the two bosses from BuCor officials, refused to ride in a BuCor vehicle and prevented BuCor officials from accompanying them.
Roxas said footage from BuCor surveillance cameras revealed that Cadavero and Panolinga never reached the BuCor compound and were transferred by RSOG personnel to a non-Bucor vehicle.
He said the reason for killing the two is still to be determined. “What is clear is that they were killed while in police custody and that the initial story that there were motorcycle riders that fired on the escorts was false,” Roxas said.
The suspects replaced the guns’ firing pins and barrels so the bullets can’t be traced, he said.
Roxas said one of the policemen admitted he was ordered by his superior officers to shoot their vehicles to make it appear they were ambushed.
He called out to Rose Cadavero, who claimed that her brother was paying some top police officials to keep him scot-free, to surface so she can be given protection.
Former Southern Tagalog police director, Chief Supt. Benito Estipona will remain on floating status and face administrative sanctions in connection with the Ozamis rubout case, he said.