Palace body sets probe of graft in Trece Martires
TRECE MARTIRES CITY — The Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC) sets off this week a fact-finding mission that will run parallel the police probe into the killing of this city’s vice mayor, Alexander Lubigan.
PACC head Dante Jimenez said he has appointed commissioner and former National Bureau of Investigation deputy director Rickson Chiong to handle the Lubigan case.
The PACC investigation came after an informant sought PACC help on alleged corruption in the Trece Martires city government which could be a motive for the killing.
Lubigan was killed in a gun attack on July 7 just as the vice mayor emerged from a gym with his family here. His driver, Romulo Guillemer, was also killed.
In an interview after Lubigan’s funeral on Sunday, Jimenez said the PACC would look into an earlier corruption complaint filed at the Office of the Ombudsman.
Jimenez declined to specify which case, but in 2016, a businessman and former city consultant named Alex Peñalba filed a complaint of plunder, graft and malversation against incumbent city Mayor Melandres de Sagun.
Peñalba’s complaint was based on the Commission on Audit’s findings between 2010 to 2014 that found irregularities in several infrastructure projects.
Aside from De Sagun, also charged were Lubigan, members of the city council and officials from the city’s budget, treasury and accounting offices.
In 2016, Peñalba ran against De Sagun but lost.
“We will not leave any stone unturned. Whoever he is or they are, there are no sacred cows here,” said PACC commissioner and spokesman, lawyer Manuelito Luna.
Asked how this could be related to Lubigan’s killing, Luna said the slain vice mayor “could be supporting moves to question certain transactions.”
Luna conceded, though, that it “remains sketchy.”
But Luna said Lubigan was “definitely not” involved in corruption.
“What we know is he was a no nonsense official, a straight guy who did not tolerate corruption,” Luna said of the slain vice mayor.
On Sunday, thousands of people wearing white shirt and black ribbons on their arms turned up for the vice mayor’s funeral.
With some carrying placards and with streamers hung around St. Jude Thaddeus parish church, the city mourned as the people called for justice.
“Let us continue to stand for what is true,” said Imus Bishop Reynaldo Evangelista in the funeral Mass.
De Sagun and Lubigan, who were both on their last terms, were once party mates.
But Lubigan’s widow, Gemma, and his family claimed the vice mayor went through “difficult times” after the 2016 elections when Lubigan was booted out of the local party and evicted from his office at City Hall.
Gemma said she tried to talk her husband out of the 2019 elections “but he would always tell me he just needed to fix some things.”
De Sagun’s chief aide, Raymund Eguillos, said the mayor and Lubigan had a falling out when Lubigan was seen talking with a rival of De Sagun but that it was not enough reason to have Lubigan killed.
De Sagun, through Eguillos, denounced the killing as his camp denied having anything to do with it.
The Cavite Vice Mayors League and the provincial and city councils issued resolutions recognizing Lubigan’s “unblemished” record as a public official and urging law enforcers to solve the killing.
In a press conference in the PNP headquarters in Camp Crame, police also said they have already identified the owner of the Toyota Hilux pickup believed used in the killing of Lubigan.
The development, said PNP Chief Oscar Albayalde, could “finally lead us to the real perpetrators of this heinous crime.”
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