Murder charges were filed on Thursday against two members of a police team that escorted two leaders of the Ozamis gang who were killed last week while allegedly trying to escape.
Interior Secretary Mar Roxas said the charges were warranted because witness’ testimonies and evidence point to the killing of Ricky Cadavero and Wilfred Panolinga Jr. as “planned and executed by members of the police.”
In a hastily called press briefing in Camp Crame, Roxas said the charges were based on the findings of 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.
Magat was the RSOG team leader, and Oco was his deputy.
Roxas said charges of perjury and obstruction were filed against the rest of the team that took custody of the two gang leaders from Bureau of Corrections (Bucor) personnel.
Charged with perjury were 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 head, 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,”
The secretary said the killings were planned since Cadavero and Panolinga were arrested by elements of the Dasmariñas City Police but ended up in RSOG custody.
He said the RSOG team also 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 team members replaced their 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.
The CIDG came under fire from Justice Secretary Leila de Lima on Thursday for accusing an agent or personnel of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) as the protector of suspected drug lord Jackson Dy and his wife, Li Na.
CIDG Anti-Organized Crime Division head Sr. Supt Jose Mario Espino has said someone from the NBI was looking after Dy before he was recaptured.
Dy and Na were hunted by authorities after the Ozamis gang snatched the couple. The two were rearrested.
De Lima challenged Espino to name names.
“I want them (CIDG) to name who these alleged NBI agents are and I will immediately summon him or them and confront him or them with such accusations… otherwise, they (CIDG) should shut up,” she said.
The NBI is investigating the death of Cadavero and Panolinga, as well as Dy’s re-arrest.
De Lima said several witnesses told her the members of the CIDG failed to declare more or less P20 million cash and some 80 kilograms of metamphetamine hydrochloride, recovered from Dy’s safehouse.