Police: Mendoza slay planned by Bilibid inmate; 5 suspects held
The discovery of a logged meeting led to the unraveling of a plan to murder former Batangas Rep. Edgar Mendoza and the arrest of the killers and identification of a convicted murderer as the mastermind.
Brig. Gen. Joel Napoleon Coronel, acting chief of the Philippine National Police Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (PNP-CIDG), told reporters on Thursday that the information about the meeting between Mendoza and his clients in Calamba City, Laguna province, was the key to solving the murder of the lawyer and the killing of his two aides.
Coronel said Mendoza’s driver Nicanor Mendoza and his bodyguard Ruel Ruiz were collateral damage.
He identified the arrested suspects as Jael Fajardo, Kristine Fernandez, Madonna Palermo, Erickson Balbastro and Carlo Acuña, who he said played different roles in the murder that had been planned by convicted murderer Sherwin Sanchez, who is behind bars at New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa City.
Coronel said Sanchez put the plan into motion through fellow convict Arthur Fajardo, suspect Jael Fajardo’s husband and a leader of a kidnap-for-ransom gang.
Three other suspects, one identified as Rodel Mercado and the other two unidentified, remain at large.
The murder plan, Coronel said, involved luring Mendoza to Fajardo’s house and drugging him and his companions before calling in contract killers to dispose of the lawyer and his aides.
“Investigation revealed that around 1:03 p.m. on Jan. 8 the victims were lured to Fajardo’s house at Villa La Prinza subdivision, Barangay Prinza, Calamba City, for an alleged payoff where they were rendered unconscious by Fernandez and Palermo by administering sleeping pills [in] their coffee,” Coronel said.
When the victims were already unconscious, he said, Acuña fetched contract killers Balbastro and Mercado from a convenience store to kill the three men.
He said the killers loaded the unconscious Mendoza and his companions on the lawyer’s car, where they stabbed and bludgeoned the victims to death. They drove Mendoza’s car to San Juan, Batangas province.
“At 10 p.m. of the same date (Jan. 8), following the order of Sherwin Sanchez, the suspects bought gasoline and burned the [car] bearing the three [bodies] in Tiaong, Quezon,” Coronel said.
The burned car with the charred bodies inside was found on Jan. 9 in the middle of a bridge at the boundary of Barangays San Juan and San Francisco in Tiaong town.
Coronel said Mendoza was Sanchez’s and Fajardo’s lawyer in a number of transactions involving money and property.
“Apparently on the day Mendoza disappeared, and later on found dead, he was supposed to collect a sum of money from representatives of the principal suspects,” Coronel said.
“Instead of paying the amount amounting to millions of pesos, they just contracted the killers for the killing of Mendoza for the sum of P100,000,” he said, adding that the meeting for the payoff was set just to lure Mendoza into the trap. There was no real intention to pay the lawyer, he added.
Security guard’s logbook
Coronel said the break in the investigation was the discovery of Mendoza’s meeting with a client in the Calamba subdivision.
“We confirmed with the security guard of that subdivision that the vehicle of (former) Congressman Mendoza and even the ID of the driver Nicanor Mendoza [were] presented to the security guard and [recorded] in the logbook,” he said.
“It was Kristine Fernandez, the caretaker of the house of Jael Fajardo in Villa La Prinza, who provided us with the details to follow up the case, which resulted in the arrest of the suspects,” Coronel said.
Fajardo surrendered to the PNP-CIDG. The others were arrested one after the other.
They have been charged with three counts of murder in the Department of Justice.