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Mandaluyong ‘gunman’ held but arrest questioned

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Mandaluyong ‘gunman’ held but arrest questioned

/ 06:25 AM October 20, 2017

MISTAKEN IDENTITY? Christopher Calumba (seated, third from right) is taken into police custody on Wednesday night.–PHOTOS BY JODEE A. AGONCILLO

The gunman caught on CCTV

Nine days after a barangay chair in Mandaluyong City was shot dead, authorities have arrested one of the suspects, a watchman from another barangay in the city.

Eastern Police District director, Chief Supt. Romulo Sapitula, identified the suspect as Christopher Calumba, 36, who has been a member of the Bantay Bayan team in Barangay Malamig for more than a decade.

Calumba was arrested by a team led by Senior Insp. Virgilio Platoon as he and his children were eating at a fast food restaurant near the MRT Boni station on Wednesday night.

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Positively identified

Sapitula said a witness had positively identified Calumba as the man who shot Barangay Poblacion chair Godofredo Tolentino inside the victim’s family-owned billiard hall on Amado Reyes Street around 6 p.m. on Oct. 9.

The witness said he knew Calumba and thought he was just at the billiard hall to fetch someone, Sapitula added.

Tolentino, 63, was shot in the head and died before he could receive treatment at the hospital.

Senior Supt. Joaquin Alva, the city police chief, said Calumba’s arrest was part of the “continuous follow-up operation” by Task Force Goody, a team led by Senior Supt. Florendo Quibuyen, EPD deputy director for operations.

According to Sapitula, they were verifying if Calumba has been involved in other killings.

Footage taken by a closed-circuit television camera showed the heavy-set gunman in a black jacket, talking to another man and walking to the billiard hall. After a few minutes, the gunman was seen escaping on a motorcycle driven by an accomplice.

The remains of slain Barangay Poblacion chair Godofredo Tolentino were brought for viewing at Mandaluyong City Hall before his burial on Oct. 17. —FACEBOOK PHOTO

Impossible to be gunman

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A coworker of Calumba, however, is questioning the arrest, saying the suspect was at work at the time the victim was killed.

According to Cristy Garma, it was impossible for Calumba to be the gunman since the latter was at their barangay hall on the night of the crime.

“In the CCTV (footage), the gunman was taller than Calumba. They said the suspect walked like Calumba, but this is a case of mistaken identity. Calumba’s shift is from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., but he stayed until late at night at the barangay hall,” Garma told the Inquirer.

Another coworker, Beth de Leon, vouched for Calumba, saying he was a kind man who often brought his children to work. Riesel Navarrette, Calumba’s live-in partner, said she could not believe he was capable of killing Tolentino.

On Thursday, the slain barangay chair’s wife, Mercedita, and some of her relatives went to the police station to confront the suspect. She said she did not know Calumba.

Two lawyers claiming to represent him have since appeared at the Mandaluyong police station to question Calumba’s warrantless arrest.

“It was highly irregular. It’s very unlikely he is the suspect. There’s also no such thing as hot pursuit. (Arrested after) nine days?” said one of the lawyers who identified herself only as Attorney dela Cruz.

Dela Cruz said the police should have filed a complaint first against Calumba and asked the court to issue a warrant for his arrest.

The lawyer claimed she was representing Calumba in line with her “advocacy” to protect accused persons from corrupt policemen.

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TAGS: Christopher Calumba, Godofredo Tolentino, Mandaluyong City, mistaken identity
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