Group wants cops’ bail canceled over anticrime crusader’s murder
SAN PEDRO CITY, Laguna, Philippines — An anticrime watchdog sought the cancellation of the bail bond that allowed the temporary release of two police officers charged in the 2016 murder of Citizens Crime Watch (CCW) officer Zenaida Luz in Oriental Mindoro province.
Recent turn of events in a series of court hearings prompted the CCW’s petition, after suspect turned state witness, Tyrone Fabella, said he tampered with the murder weapon, a vital evidence.
In 2017, the court allowed former Capt. Magdalino Pimentel Jr. and Lt. Markson Almeranez to post bail after the bullets found in the crime scene failed to match the gun recovered from them.
Pimentel was formerly assigned to Oriental Mindoro’s Provincial Public Safety Company (PPSC), while Almeranez was police chief of Socorro town when Luz, 51, was gunned down in front of her house three years ago on Oct. 9.
CCW called Luz’s murder the “first, clear case of EJK (extrajudicial killing)” under President Rodrigo Duterte’s watch.
The case also drew international attention because the gunmen turned out to be ranking policemen who were in disguise—one wearing a balaclava while the other, a woman’s wig.
In a hearing in Manila Regional Trial Court (RTC) on Oct. 15, Fabella, a 40-year-old cellular phone technician and a police “asset,” testified that he and Pimentel had swapped guns after the shooting — the .45-caliber gun that Pimentel allegedly used to shoot Luz, Fabella replaced with a .380-caliber pistol.
“This [testimony] explains well why the bullets did not match the guns, which was the [court’s] basis for granting the bail,” lawyer Jose Villegas Jr., CCW executive director, said in a telephone interview.
In a 66-page court transcript furnished by CCW to the Inquirer, Fabella told Manila RTC Branch 49 Judge Daniel Villanueva that switching the guns was part of the plan, but he was unsure what this meant.
Fabella said that on Oct. 9, 2016, Pimentel, who he had only met and started working for the previous year, called and asked him to meet up with him, Almeranez and Pimentel’s nephew, Silvester Pimentel.
Fabella said they were supposed to carry out a “hit” on a certain Allan del Mundo, an illegal drug suspect that Pimentel’s team previously arrested in Pinamalayan town.
After about five hours of looking but failing to find Del Mundo, Fabella said Almeranez suggested they move on to “Option B” in the nearby town of Gloria.
Fabella, who was arrested in 2017, offered his testimony in exchange for government protection. Silvester, meanwhile, has yet to be arrested.
According to Fabella, “Option B” turned out to be Luz but he did not have an idea who she was until later.
Fabella said it was sometime between 10 p.m. and 11 p.m. when he and Silvester rode together on a motorcyle, while Pimentel and Almeranez on another motorcycle.
He said the cops’ motorcycle was parked about 8.5 meters away from Luz’s home when Pimentel pulled the trigger. Fabella said Luz immediately fell to the ground.
The plan was for all of four of them to drive back to Pinamalayan, where the PPSC supposedly had a camp. Fabella, however, said he was too “shocked” that he drove their motorycle toward Bongabong town, where he lived, instead.
Pimentel and Almeranez took the opposite direction but members of the Gloria police, who happened to be in the area responding to a road accident, caught up with them.
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