SANTA CRUZ, Laguna: Police have identified the registered owner of the getaway vehicle allegedly used by the gunman in the ambush of Calauan Mayor Buenafrido Berris on Sunday as a special investigation task group (SITG) was formed to look into the daring attack.
Laguna Police Provincial Director Senior Supt. Ronnie Montejo said the Toyota Corolla with license plate PSP-326 was registered to a certain Jesus Malapitan Jr. of Barangay Baclas, Calaca, Batangas, but he added this was being thoroughly investigated.
The car, believed used by the fleeing suspects, was recovered in Barangay San Marcos, San Pablo City. Found inside was five cartridges from a .45 caliber pistol.
Witnesses described the man who abandoned the vehicle to be wearing a T-shirt, denim pants, rubber shoes, a baseball cap, approximately 5-foot-5 in height, between 30 to 35 years old, and of medium build.
Montejo said SITG Berris has already obtained a copy of the CCTV taken in San Pablo City where the car was found abandoned.
“We are still investigating the case to determine whether it is politically motivated or not,” Montejo said.
Mayor Berris, 63, was wounded but his companions – youth leader Emmanuel Peña, 25, and Berris’ driver Leonardo Taningco, 58, died.
Berris is recuperating at the Makati Medical Center where he was transferred following the Sunday afternoon ambush.
Barangay Imok Chairman Elpidio Velasco said Berris and his companions came from a meeting of a cooperative at the village hall prior to the incident.
The three just boarded Berris’ grey Starex van when the assailant opened the right side door and fired several times at the victims.
Peña, who was seated next to the door, was instantly killed and fell on the road while Taningco, although wounded, tried to escape but lost control and stopped at the left shoulder of the road. Berris was hit at the chest and stomach.
Berris, reportedly split from the opposition United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) to run as an independent candidate for the May 9 elections.