CAMP VICENTE LIM, Laguna—Police arrested four people, among them a village chief in Imus City, for their alleged participation in the escape of three Chinese drug convicts from jail personnel in Cavite.
Police found evidence linking to the Ozamiz robbery gang arrested suspects Rodel “Gorio” Cambongga, 24; Emiliano Quilicol, 43; Rene “Dodo” Bersales, 33; and Leovino “Nonoy” Fontanilla, 46, the head of Barangay Bayang Luma IV.
The criminal gang, so named because its members are natives of Ozamiz City, was allegedly behind the “rescue operation” of the Chinese convicts from the hands of the Cavite provincial guards on Feb. 20.
The group was also said to be responsible for the series of robberies in banks and money transfer outlets in Metro Manila and nearby provinces.
Cavite police director Senior Supt. Alexander Rafael on Friday said investigators were interrogating the four to track down the rest of the 14-man team that helped in the escape of Chinese detainees Li Lan Yan, also known as Jackson Dy; his wife, Wang Li Na; and Li Tian Hua.
“But they only knew so much. They said [the rescue operation] was compartmentalized and their participation was only up to the part of taking the Chinese. They said other members [of the syndicate] took charge of hiding them,” Rafael said in a phone interview.
The Chinese nationals, accompanied by four jail guards and a driver, were on their way to attend a court hearing on a drug case in Trece Martires City when the armed suspects blocked the jail’s service vehicle in Barangay Luciano, Trece Martires, and took the foreigners and Filipino inmate Edgardo Pineda with them.
Pineda was abandoned by the suspects about 500 meters from where the Chinese nationals were taken. Pineda, a murder suspect, however, decided to return to the provincial jail on his own instead of escaping because he feared for his safety, according to Rafael.
Rafael said the police have taken the statement of Pineda on what he witnessed during the “rescue.”
Pineda, however, told the police that he could not identify the abductors because their faces were covered with bonnets. There was also no conversation between the Chinese convicts and their “rescuers” up to the time Pineda was ordered to get off the vehicle, Rafael said.
The suspects abandoned their getaway vehicle, also in Trece Martires City, and switched vehicles but the second one was also abandoned and recovered in Tanza town.
The police recovered from one of the vehicles an LBC payment receipt for P1,000 that bore Cambongga’s name as the payor. The amount was sent to Roy Blanco, detained at the Bulacan provincial jail for the murder of state witness Alfred Mendiola in 2012.
Mendiola was the star witness against the Dominguez car theft group, prompting the police to suspect that the Dominguez group might also have a hand in the incident.
Cavite police information officer Supt. Romeo Desiderio by phone said the LBC payment receipt recovered from the vehicle was the police’s basis for arresting Cambongga, who was also seen in the Cavite jail’s security camera as visiting Dy on Feb. 16.
Cambongga, a resident of Imus City, was arrested at a checkpoint in Trece Martires on Wednesday. He pointed to Fontanilla as the group’s alleged contact in Cavite and identified Quilicol and Bersales as their cohorts.
He also told police that the group finalized its plans at the village hall of Bayang Luma hours before the “rescue operation.”
Fontanilla was arrested early on Thursday in Bacoor City while Quilicol and Bersales were arrested together in front of a mall in separate police operations.
The service firearm of one of the jail guards, a 9mm pistol, was recovered from Bersales, Desiderio said.
Chief Supt. Benito Estipona, the police director of Calabarzon (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon) said in a text message that each suspect was supposed to receive P150,000 for their participation in the “rescue.”