GAPAN CITY : A policeman and two civilians, including an 86-year-old woman, died in an ambush carried out by a group of armed men in Barangay San Lorenzo here on Tuesday morning.
The group’s alleged target, Emmerson Pascual, survived.
Police Superintendent Bernard Orig, Gapan police chief, identified the fatalities as Police Officer 2 Jefferson Lim, Consuelo Manse, 86, and driver Rufino Vendivil, 44. They died on the spot from multiple gunshot wounds. Manse was just passing by and was caught in he hail of bullets.
Police said that Pascual, a member of the Violence Against Crime and Corruption (VACC), has just alighted from the vehicle driven by Vendivil when the group of five men carrying high-powered automatic firearms started shooting. The attackers then fled on board a vehicle with license plate TT-1506.
Pascual’s two brothers were among those massacred in a cockpit attack here in 2006.
Senior Superintendent Crizaldo Nieves, provincial police director, said they have yet to establish the motive for the attack.
Pascual narrated that minutes before the incident, he came across barangay captain Caloy Barlis, an ally of incumbent Gapan City Mayor Maricel Natividad’s father, ex-three term mayor Ernesto Natividad. The elder Natividad, his late brother Romeo and 17 others were charged for the cockpit attack in 2006.
A year later, the Pascuals’ patriarch Rodrigo ran for mayor against Ernesto but lost.
The elder Natividad went into hiding in February 2012 after a warrant for his arrest was issued by a Manila court. The Pascual family raised a P1-million reward for the arrest of Natividad and his co-accused.
Natividad was arrested while undergoing dialysis treatment in Metro Manila early this year.
The Department of Justice initially ordered the filing of murder charges against the suspects in 2009 and forwarded the case to the Office of the Ombudsman for review.
On February 10, 2009, the Office of the Ombudsman affirmed the DOJ ruling. But when the two Natividads and Peralta filed a motion for reconsideration, then Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez reversed her ruling on April 8,2009, excluding the three from the charge sheet.
Mrs. Pascual appealed the Ombudsman ruling.
On November 25, 2011, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales found probable cause and ordered the filing of murder charges against the two Natividads and Peralta, in effect reversing the ruling of her predecessor and granting the motion for reconsideration of Mrs. Pascual.
The latest Ombudsman ruling said the DOJ ruling should have been affirmed outright because the three filed their motions for reconsideration too late.
The murder cases were eventually transferred to the sala of Manila RTC Branch 10 Judge Virgilio Alameda who, on September 17 last year, found probable cause against Natividad and Peralta.
VACC head Dante Jimenez expressed concern over the worsening peace and order situation in the country.
Jimenez said the attack on Tuesday may be connected with the killing of Pascual’s brothers seven years ago.
The VACC said Pascual is the second VACC member who has been targeted by unidentified men. Last month, a court volunteer of the organization was gunned down by unidentified assailants in Quezon City.
With a report from Jefferson Antiporda