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Car dealers’ murders: ‘Even Satan will be horrified’

By Armand Galang, Dona Pazzibugan
Philippine Daily Inquirer, Central Luzon Desk
First Posted 01:53:00 01/19/2011

Filed Under: Murder, Crime and Law and Justice

CABANATUAN CITY??Even Satan will be horrified to see what they have done.?

Thus did a tearful Arsenio Evangelista confirm Tuesday that the charred body found by a farmer in the remote barangay of Buliran on Friday was that of his missing son, car dealer Venson Evangelista.

Also last week, the charred bodies of car dealer Emerson Lozano and his driver, Ernane Sensil, were found in Porac, Pampanga, and La Paz, Tarlac, respectively.

?There seems to be a relationship between the [Lozano and Evangelista] cases. That?s why we are readying a joint case conference. I suggested maybe we can merge the two cases,? said Chief Supt. Benjardi Mantele, the Quezon City Police District director.

Supt. Eliseo Cruz, Cabanatuan police chief, said a farmer found Evangelista?s body, with a deep wound in the nape and packaging tape covering the face, near an irrigation canal in Purok 1 in Buliran.

The body had been burned with the use of a rubber tire, Cruz said.

The father said he had found it difficult to match his son?s features??Steven Seagal-type? hair, height of 5 feet 9 inches?with the burned corpse that appeared to be shorter.

But the family inspected the body from all angles until another son said the nose resembled Venson?s, the father recalled. He also told policemen that the belt buckle found on the corpse was similar to the one used by his son.

Cruz said dental records submitted by the family also matched the teeth of the corpse brought to the RBN Funeral Homes.

He said it appeared that the body was burned in the same area where it was found in Buliran, and was not merely dumped there.

Venson Evangelista, 30, went missing in Quezon City on Jan. 13.

The remains of Lozano and Sensil were identified on Jan. 16 based on dental records.

They went missing on the night of Jan. 12, when Lozano, a son of lawyer Oliver Lozano, was to have met with a buyer of a silver KIA Carnival SUV model 2008 (plate number QAE-333) he was selling.

Police said the modus operandi in the murders of Evangelista, Lozano and Sensil was similar.

?Probably, only one group did it. It?s positive that the body found in Cabanatuan was Venson Evangelista?s,? said Chief Supt. Alan Purisima, Central Luzon police director.

P500,000 reward

A reward of P500,000 for anyone with information that can lead to the capture of the killers of Lozano, 44, and Sensil has been put up, according to Chief Supt. Benito Estipono, commander of Special Investigation Task Group Lozano.

Estipono said the reward was offered by a concerned citizen who asked not to be named.

Like Purisima, Estipono said the manner in which the three men were killed was the same.

?What is striking in the cadaver recovered in Nueva Ecija is that it also had a gunshot wound in the head and it was also burned through the use of kerosene,? Estipono said at a news briefing Tuesday in Camp Crame.

?But this time, scene-of-the-crime agents found that aside from kerosene, tires were used in the burning,? he said.

Estipono said that based on a slug recovered from the corpse, a 9mm pistol was used on Evangelista. He said it was the same make of the firearm used on Sensil.

?The ... wounds in the Lozano case and in the Nueva Ecija case are very similar to the wounds sustained by the driver Sensil. These are characteristics of a 9mm pistol,? he said.

No slug was recovered in Lozano?s case.

2 suspects

A new special investigation task group led by Mantele has been formed for Venson Evangelista?s case.

Mantele said the group had two suspects so far, one of whom he identified as Allan Torres.

He said Torres?who was purportedly described by witnesses as gay?had a mechanic who took Evangelista?s Toyota Land Cruiser for a test drive in Quezon City on the night the car dealer went missing.

?While they were going around, a green Pajero was seen suddenly stopping beside the Land Cruiser, and someone from the Pajero entered the van. Both cars are missing,? Mantele said.

He said a sketch of the suspects was being prepared using the description of witnesses.

Police report

According to a police report, a copy of which was obtained by the Inquirer, Venson Evangelista was abducted by at least three men on Jan. 12 at 4 p.m. while on board a Land Cruiser (plate number NAI-316) in Barangay Pinagkaisahan, Quezon City.

This was how the abduction transpired as narrated in the report:

Torres?whom witnesses described as ?gay, because of the way he talked and dressed up?and another man arrived at Evangelista?s residence which also serves as a used car showroom.

He told Evangelista of his interest in buying the luxury vehicle and wanted his own ?auto mechanic? to check its condition.

He insisted on taking it for a test drive.

After the car made a few turns, a green Pajero showed up, one of its occupants alighted, and opened the door to the front passenger seat occupied by Evangelista.

Evangelista was pushed to the middle and he was sandwiched by the two men.

A brief commotion occurred inside the vehicle before it was driven away followed by the Pajero.

Senior Supt. Rainier Idio, Quezon City Police District chief for operations, said the task force was coordinating with the family and had gathered statements from witnesses.

Night-time road tests

But authorities were not immediately concluding that a new crime operation had surfaced because carjack or kidnap syndicates were not known to torch their victims.

?The real motive here may or may not be car theft,? Estipono said.

He said police were still trying to see if the two cases were indeed connected.

?They suffered the same fate. They were shot and then they were burned. They were killed in a gruesome manner. Is there any relationship between the two being car traders?? Estipono said.

While the two missing cars are both SUVs, only the Land Cruiser is considered a high-end vehicle.

Estipono said it was learned that Lozano and Evangelista did not allow test drives at night.

?Why is it that they were made to apparently have a road test in the evening? ... Maybe it?s just a ploy to get them out,? he said. ?In the meantime, it would be prudent to say that since both victims are car traders, let us stay safe.?

The PNP Highway Patrol Group director, Chief Supt. Leonardo Espina, said a flash alarm to look for the missing vehicles had been issued.

2 witnesses

Oliver Lozano, Emerson Lozano?s father, Tuesday asked the Department of Justice for a parallel inquiry to be carried out by the National Bureau of Investigation.

?With an extensive operation by a composite team of NBI and Philippine National Police agents, [the murderers] will not be able to escape a national dragnet,? Lozano told reporters.

He said two witnesses to the killing of his son had contacted him after learning of the family?s grief and appeal for justice in the media.

Lozano met with Justice Undersecretary Francisco Baraan III to discuss the possible parallel inquiry. The closed-door meeting was still in progress at press time.

At Camp Olivas in Pampanga, police have discounted vehicle smuggling as a possible link to the murder of Emerson Lozano, according to Purisima, the Central Luzon police director.

Purisima said police had looked into this angle to eliminate it from several possible motives.

?The Kia Carnival that [Lozano] was selling is locally made and is owned by the wife of his boss in a construction firm,? Purisima told the Inquirer.

He said that type of vehicle was ?not easily sold in the market.?

Asked if this was a case of mistaken identity, as Lozano?s father had suspected, or car theft, Purisima said: ?We?re not facing a blank wall.?

But he refused to elaborate.

Imelda at the wake

At the wake for his son at St. Peter?s Chapels earlier Tuesday, Oliver Lozano expressed optimism that the task force?s investigation would turn out well.

Lozano, a known lawyer of the Marcos family, said his family was thankful to President Benigno Aquino III for taking interest in the case.

?We are indebted to the President because of the very concrete step that he has taken for us,? Lozano said.

Ilocos Norte Rep. Imelda Marcos arrived at the wake at around noon Tuesday.

Lozano hurriedly rose from his seat and greeted the widow of the strongman Ferdinand Marcos.

?This is such a painful situation and as a mother, I feel their pain,? the former first lady told reporters.

She blamed poverty as the cause of the brutality of Emerson Lozano?s killing: ?This is the result. Because of poverty, people are forced to resort to such things. We have no right to take life, so we must work together to end poverty.? With reports from Nancy C. Carvajal, Nikko Dizon and Julie M. Aurelio in Manila; Tonette Orejas, Inquirer Central Luzon



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