ALAMINOS CITY—The wife of slain Mayor Ruperto Martinez of Infanta town has appealed to authorities and politicians not to use the death of her husband as an issue in the political campaign.
“It’s very painful for us, especially to link [Pangasinan Rep. Jesus] Celeste and Gov. [Amado] Espino [Jr.], our most reliable political allies, to the killing,” said Crisanta Martinez.
Martinez was shot and killed by two men in front of his house in Barangay Cato in Infanta on Dec. 15 last year. Two suspects were arrested two days after the killing and charged with murder. They are now detained at the Pangasinan provincial jail.
But on Feb. 12, the National Bureau of Investigation filed murder charges against Espino, Celeste, Zambales Gov. Hermogenes Ebdane Jr. and a local newspaper publisher in connection with Martinez’s killing.
The NBI claimed a witness, which turned out to be the publisher’s 16-year-old son, had named the three officials and his father as behind the killing.
“I do not believe they have something to do with my husband’s death. They have been friends for a long time now,” Crisanta said.
In separate statements, the three officials and the publisher denied they plotted Martinez’s killing, saying the witness’ story was “fabricated, unbelievable.”
Celeste’s younger brother, former Pangasinan Rep. Arthur Celeste, who acted as the family spokesperson, said politics was the only reason they were accused of the crime.
“It’s elections time. This is just politics, you know,” said the younger Celeste, who is running again for mayor in this city against Mayor Hernani Braganza’s son, Lean. Braganza is seeking the gubernatorial seat against Espino.
In another statement, Rep. Jesus Celeste said the charges were “fabricated and unbelievable.”
“This is ridiculous. Our political foes have gone desperate in their character assassination to improve their acceptability rating in the May elections,” said former Representative Celeste.
He said that in 2010, he and his brother were accused of being drug lords. “What could be next?” he asked.
“Theirs is dirty politics,” he said.
The Celeste brothers also questioned the credibility of the NBI report, which, they said, was “based merely on hearsay, on a testimony of one single alleged witness of minor age who comes from a broken family.”
“The NBI recommendation is sweeping and uncalled for. It is more of a publicity stunt orchestrated by our political rivals,” he said.
The publisher on Wednesday discredited his son, who he described as a school dropout and “not a credible witness.”
Speaking to the Inquirer, the publisher said his son could not provide the Department of Justice with credible evidence because the boy had been in trouble in Baguio City, where he had studied and was detained twice at the Department of Social Welfare and Development for stealing money.
“The NBI [which has custody of the boy] should have conducted first a background check on my son. Why did the NBI use my son without my consent?” the father said.
“And why am I included in the charges? I do not know anything about that,” he said. Gabriel Cardinoza, Inquirer Northern Luzon