MANILA, Philippines?It may have been a case of mistaken identity, lawyer Oliver Lozano said of the brutal killing of his son Emerson.
The body of the younger Lozano, a buyer and seller of vehicles, was found burnt beyond recognition by scavengers at Barangay Mancatian in Porac, Pampanga, on Jan. 14.
The charred remains of his driver, Ernane Sensil, were found a day earlier in La Paz, Tarlac.
The elder Lozano said his son had no enemies and had good ?public relations? with everyone.
?After a long process of elimination, as a lawyer, my assessment is that my son?s death is a case of mistaken identity,? he calmly told reporters Monday afternoon at his son?s wake at St. Peter Memorial Chapel in Quezon City.
He said his 44-year-old son was a peaceful citizen and dutiful barangay councilman.
President Benigno Aquino III Monday directed police officials to swiftly resolve the ?grisly? killing of the younger Lozano and his driver.
?I have ordered Philippine National Police director for Central Luzon Allan Purisima to prioritize the case,? the President said in a statement.
Special task force
The PNP has formed a special task force to investigate the abduction and killing of the younger Lozano.
The task force will be headed by Chief Supt. Benito Estipona, who also investigated the Maguindanao massacre.
Estipona was also tasked with investigating the abduction of another car dealer, identified as Vernon Evangelista, after his father Arsenio reported that his son had gone missing on Thursday.
Evangelista was entertaining potential buyers for an SUV at home in Cubao, Quezon City, before he disappeared. The suspects had reportedly asked to test drive a vehicle Evangelista was selling.
Meeting with prospective buyer
The younger Lozano and his driver, Sensil, were reported missing by the Lozano family on Jan. 14 after the pair failed to return home from a supposed meeting with a prospective buyer of his 2008 Kia Carnival on Jan 12.
Emerson was supposed to meet the client at the Shell gasoline station in Barangay Old Balara.
His body was found on Friday, but it was only on Sunday that forensic experts concluded that it was indeed the younger Lozano?s body, based on dental samples.
The areas where the bodies of Lozano and Sensil were found are less than an hour apart through the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway.
?Despite reports that he was dead, we clung on to the hope that he is still alive. I told myself, until the SOCO (Scene of the Crime Operatives) says so, we will not believe that he is dead,? the elder Lozano told reporters.
Unattended for days
Lozano recalled that his son?s body had been unattended for some days as the lawyer was still unaware that it was indeed his son.
The lawyer, with his voice cracking, expressed some degree of regret that he was not able to take care of his son?s body as well as he would have wanted to, like wrap it in a nicer blanket.
?I wailed. I asked for his forgiveness because we did not know that the charred body was already him,? the teary-eyed lawyer told reporters in Filipino.
Lozano recalled having problems claiming the body as another family was claiming his son?s body as well.
The elder Lozano arrived Monday at the mortuary to attend to his son?s wake, a day after police confirmed that the burnt corpse was that of his son.
?To shoot the victim in the head, and to burn the body beyond recognition. Based on this kind of brutality, this death is intended for a hardened criminal. But not to kill my son in that manner,? the lawyer said in maintaining his stand that the case was that of mistaken identity.
Asked if his son was a victim of ?salvaging? possibly by law agents, Lozano said: ?Not necessarily.?
The younger Lozano had served as a barangay councilman in his community and according to his father, ?had a humble reputation and served his constituents well.?
Emerson was the second of four children, and had two kids with his wife, Rowena.
Asked if his son?s brutal death could be connected to his work as barangay councilman or the older Lozano?s work as a lawyer, Lozano replied in the negative.
?Definitely no,? he said.
Asked if he had any suspect in mind, Lozano said he was leaving the matter to the police authorities investigating the case.
?Our faith in God relieved our pain, our faith in the national leadership, and the condolences of friends,? Lozano said.
The younger Lozano will be accorded a traditional wake and burial, according to his family.
Search for witnesses
Police in Central Luzon started on Monday the search for witnesses that would help shed light on the murder of the younger Lozano.
?We?re now helping in the search for witnesses and motives [for the abduction and killing],? Chief Supt. Alan Purisima, regional police director, said on Monday.
Senior Supt. Petronio Retirado, Pampanga police director, said policemen recovered a tire ringed around the body of Lozano.
He said Mancatian was a busy area because trucks haul sand there day and night. However, the spot where the charred body of Lozano was found was 20 meters from the Porac highway and near a secondary dike of the FVR Megadike.
?There are not many people who go that way,? Retirado said.
Senior Insp. Jose Dindo Marie Herrera conducted the dental comparison at Galang Funeral Parlor in Angeles City where Lozano?s remains were kept. The dental record was issued by Dr. Charles Salus Balmori, the victim?s dentist. With a report from Christine O. Avendaño