MANILA, Philippines – Two policemen involved in the killing of Ricky Cadavero, the leader of the dreaded Ozamiz robbery gang, and his lieutenant in Laguna were slapped with murder charges Thursday.
At a press conference, Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II said one of the escorts of Cadavero and Wilfredo Panogalinga who chose to tell the truth had confessed that the killing of the Ozamiz gang leaders was “well planned,” bolstering earlier suspicion of a rubout.
Roxas identified the officers as Police Senior Inspector Manuel Magat and Inspector Efren Oco.
Magat and Oco are members of the Regional Special Operations Group (RSOG) of Region IV-A. They headed the custodial team that escorted the two high-profile fugitives.
Cadavero and Panogalinga allegedly grabbed the gun of one of the escorts but police shot the two.
At the press conference Thursday, Roxas said the most damning evidence yet against the police team guarding the Ozamiz gang leaders was the sworn statement of one of the officers who professed that the ambush was planned by his colleagues.
The name of the witness was withheld. Roxas said he is under protective custody and is being applied for the Witness Protection Program.
In his statement, the officer admitted he himself shot the Toyota Hi Ace Van carrying Cadavero and Panogalinga while the vehicle was traversing the road along San Antonio, San Pedro, Laguna on the night of July 15.
“He was one of those who opened fire at the Hi Ace. It was not true that a motorcycle chased the vehicle
and one of the riders fired at the van… he was the one who shot the windshield and the right front wheel of the van,” said Roxas to belie the claims of Region 4-B Police Director Chief Superintendent Benito Estipona.
Estipona said motorcycle-riding gunmen blocked the convoy and fired at the van.
Roxas said that the witness believed the shots he heard coming from the back of the van hit Cadavero and Panogalinga.
The Interior secretary noted that the incident was planned as evident from the police escorts’ refusal to use a vehicle from the Bureau of Corrections, their refusal to let a BuCor official escort them, and for taking the convoy to a more complex route.
“Eto mga nagbibigay hudyat napag-isipan nila ito,” Roxas said, adding that there was even an attempt to confuse investigators by replacing the firing pin and barrel of the guns used in the incident.
“[Ito ay] para hindi nga ma-trace yung ballistics. Kaya nung unang pag-test walang match. Pero nung lumabas katotohanan, nag-match dahil naibalik na yung tamang baril at firing pin,” the secretary noted. With a report from Jamie Elona