The police officers who tried to help cover up the summary executions of two robbery gang leaders last week face charges of conspiracy, obstruction of justice and perjury, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said on Friday.
De Lima said the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) was wrapping up the probe of the killings of Ozamiz robbery gang leaders Ricky Cadavero and Wilfredo Panogalinga Jr. in police custody in San Pedro town, Laguna province, on July 15.
The Philippine National Police (PNP) has brought murder charges against two of 14 police officers involved in what the PNP chief, Director General Alan Purisima, has called a “rubout.”
Charged on Monday were Senior Insp. Manuel Magat and Insp. Efren Oco, members of the Regional Special Operations Group of the Calabarzon (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Aurora, Quezon) police.
“The NBI will continue with its own investigation. We still don’t know if the PNP has finished with its probe. They’ve already charged two. The NBI will see if others will be charged. Someone had spilled the beans. What was his role [in this incident] which turned out to be an ‘inside ambush’?” De Lima said.
“That’s why the NBI is looking into a conspiracy [since] the act of one is the act of all. It’s possible that not only two will be charged,” she added.
De Lima said the decision of one of the policemen to turn state witness was a “welcome development.”
She said the NBI investigators wanted to know the complete story.
“Who really ordered the execution of Cadavero and his companion? Is this the deed of just the team [of police custodians]? Who is behind it, who gave the orders? We want our investigation to be as wide as possible,” she said.
De Lima also insisted that contrary to the claims of the PNP Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG), the killings of Cadavero and Panogalinga were related to the recapture of suspected drug trafficker Li Lan Yan, alias Jackson Dy, and his wife, Wang Li Na, who were sprung from jail by the Ozamiz gang on Feb. 16.
“They said [the two operations are] not connected, but [they are]. That’s the theory of the NBI,” she added.
As to the claims of the CIDG that an NBI agent was protecting Dy, De Lima replied, “If there’s really evidence, I will not hesitate to have it investigated. They should name names so that [the accusations] won’t taint [the NBI investigation].”
The two witnesses, a security guard and a gardener in the subdivision in San Juan City where Dy and his wife had been hiding, claimed the CIDG agents took P15 million to P20 million in cash and up to 80 kilos of shabu (methamphetamine hydrochloride) they seized at Dy’s apartment.
De Lima also said the Department of Justice was preparing possible charges against the CIDG Anti-Organized Crime Division head, Senior Supt. Jose Mario Espino, and his team for disclosing the identities of the witnesses, who were under government protection, during a news conference on Wednesday.
Not in cahoots
“They (witnesses) can only be named with their consent. If you divulge their identities, that’s a violation. They’re law enforcers, they know we’ve admitted our witnesses into the Witness Protection Program, so why should they [disclose the witnesses’ identities]?” she said.
De Lima also responded to accusations that criminal syndicates were manipulating the NBI’s witnesses on the CIDG agents’ alleged cleaning up of Dy’s apartment shortly after his arrest.
“There’s no indication that our witnesses are in cahoots with a syndicate,” De Lima said. “I cannot just tell you yet why exactly, and who are these witnesses, how they came to be witnesses. But I was able to speak to them,” she said.
“My trip [to Dy’s apartment] was impromptu. They were there when I arrived. I saw that they were at first afraid, they don’t even want to be covered by the Witness Protection Program. And now, the NBI believes they are credible. We can’t see any indication that they’re being used by a syndicate. That needs to be proven. In due time we will say exactly what our witnesses know,” De Lima said.
De Lima also defended herself from accusations that she was biased against the CIDG. With a report from Dona Pazzibugan
Originally posted at 11:21 p.m. | July 26, 2013