It was a rubout all right.
Director General Alan Purisima, the Philippine National Police chief, confirmed Tuesday observations that policemen intentionally killed last week two robbery-holdup syndicate members while in their custody.
Purisima made the confirmation as he announced that he had approved the administrative charges against a police superintendent and 13 others for the deaths of Ozamiz gang leader Ricky Cadavero and his henchman, Wilfredo Panogalinga Jr.
“I have already approved the precharge evaluation of those involved in the Cadavero and Panogalinga case because it appears in the investigation that there have been violations committed,” Purisima told reporters in Camp Crame.
He said an internal investigation confirmed that no firefight took place when the two suspects were killed in San Pedro, Laguna province.
The officers will reportedly be charged with grave misconduct which could carry a maximum penalty of dismissal from the service.
Supt. Danilo Mendoza, head of the Calabarzon (Region IV-A) Regional Special Operations Group (RSOG), three other police officials and 10 police officers who escorted the Ozamiz gang leaders on July 15 were suspended a day after the killings.
The Calabarzon police director, Chief Supt. Benito Estipona, whom Interior Secretary Mar Roxas had also relieved from duty, was spared from the administrative charges.
Others facing administrative charges are Senior Inspectors Manuel Magat and Fernando Cardona; Insp. Efren Oco; Senior Police Officers 1 Joseph Ortega and Jayson Semacas; Police Officers 3 Sherwin Bulan, Ramil Gonzales, Marvin Mejia and Eduardo Cruz—all from RSOG;
Police Officers 2 Conrado Bautista, Exiel Reyes and Kristofferson Reyes, and PO1 Ryan Rey Gado—all from the Regional Public Safety Battalion.
Purisima said he acted on the recommendation of the internal investigating team led by Director Catalino Cuy, PNP director for personnel and records management, who had pieced together what transpired based on evidence and witnesses’ testimony.
The investigation revealed “that there was no firefight in the incident,” the PNP chief said.
Cadavero and Panogalinga were presented to the media in Camp Crame by Roxas and Purisima on the morning of July 15.
That night at about 6:30, they were killed in Laguna supposedly while on the way to the RSOG headquarters in Calamba City.
Their police escorts claimed Cadavero and Panogalinga were shot when they tried to escape as motorcycle-riding men fired at one of the police vehicles in a supposed attempt to spring the gang leaders.
Purisima said the two suspects were supposed to be turned over to the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) in Muntinlupa City (for inquest proceedings and incarceration) after the press conference in Camp Crame.
The RSOG brought the two men to the NBP where they changed vehicles and drove to their camp in Dasmariñas City, Cavite province, supposedly for an inquest.
The RSOG vehicle carrying Cadavero and Panolinga took a long route via Laguna province, where gunmen on motorcycle allegedly ambushed the police vehicle.
But a witness belied the RSOG claim that gunmen on motorcycle tried to spring the two men. The witness interviewed by the Inquirer on July 17 said he saw two vehicles—a black Montero and a yellow Lancer—that blocked the road in the secluded area near the gate to KC Golf Country Club.
The witness said a man in jeans and camouflage jacket stepped out of the Montero with a drawn gun and ordered him to leave as a shooting would ensue shortly.
The witness said he saw two other cars in the middle of the road some 300 meters from where he was.
Looking for motive
When he was about to leave, he said a van arrived and he heard gunfire. The van turned out to be the RSOG vehicle carrying Cadavero and Panolinga.
Asked if Cadavero and Panogalinga were deliberately killed by their police escorts, Purisima said: “It appears that way.”
The PNP chief, however, acknowledged that the PNP had yet to finish its investigation to find out the motive for Cadavero and Panogalinga’s deaths.
“We are finding out the motive, but we are conducting a thorough investigation on the connection of those involved,” Purisima said.
Cadavero allegedly had a number of policemen on his pay, according to the slain suspect’s sister.
Cadavero and Panogalinga bolted from prison late last year but were recaptured on July 12 in Dasmariñas City. They were slapped with a new case of illegal possession of firearms and explosives.
Cadavero’s group was said to be behind the escape of two convicted Chinese drug traffickers in Trece Martires City, also in Cavite, five months ago.
Justice Secretary Leila de Lima on Tuesday said the National Bureau of Investigation was expected to complete very soon its probe of the deaths of Cadavero and Panogalinga.
“I don’t know if they were able to get all the necessary evidence, but since they are really working on it quite seriously, then I expect that the resolution of the case won’t take long,” De Lima told reporters.
She said President Aquino, who mentioned the case in his State of the Nation Address on Monday, was “alarmed” at what happened as the incident came after the Atimonan killings.
Investigators found out that police officers and soldiers killed a group of armed men in Atimonan, Quezon province, and made it appear to be a shootout.
De Lima said the “suspicious circumstances” surrounding the deaths of Cadavero and Panogalinga “tend to show that it appears that there is a syndicate and it involves policemen.”
“Who is protecting that syndicate with Cadavero has the motive of silencing him,” the justice secretary said.—With a report from Christine Avendaño
Originally posted: 6:25 pm | Tuesday, July 23rd, 2013