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Murder convict says he left with Rolito Go to do a hit

ILAGAN CITY—The recapture of a missing convict has revealed yet another sordid activity at the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) aside from kidnapping for ransom—ferrying out convicts to do hit jobs.

After he was rearrested by agents of the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) and the provincial police on Sunday in Naguilian, Isabela, murder convict Rommel Laciste had quite a tale to tell.

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A maximum security prisoner who disappeared from the national penitentiary last week at about the same time prisoner Rolito Go claimed he was kidnapped, Laciste told reporters at the provincial police headquarters here on Sunday noon that he had left the NBP compound on board the same truck that carried Go and the latter’s nephew.

But while Go, who resurfaced the next day, claimed he was brought to a place in Batangas and forced to pay for his release, Laciste said he was let off in Baclaran. He said he took a bus to Isabela the next day because he had been hired to kill a lumber dealer in San Mariano for P300,000. Another job was to kill a businesswoman in Santiago City, he said.

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Laciste did not name the person who allegedly asked him to kill the business owners.

Police said his claims had yet to be investigated.

Changing details

Senior Superintendent Franklin Moises Mabanag, Isabela police director, has ordered investigators to retrace Laciste’s steps based on the information he gave about his escape because “details in his testimony keep changing.”

“We cannot determine if he really was with Rolito Go at that time… We have to check all the information,” Mabanag said.

Laciste, 34, is serving a life sentence for the 2006 murder of Concepcion Lumanglas, assistant parole and probation officer in the province.

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, who has personally taken over the reins of the NBP after BuCor Chief Gaudencio Pangilinan went on leave after the Go incident, later formally announced Laciste’s capture. “Documentation at the PNP-Naguilian police station is ongoing,” she said.

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Rice delivery truck

She also disclosed that a closed circuit security video showed a rice hull delivery truck, which might have been used to carry Laciste, leaving the NBP’s Gate 4 at 2:30 p.m. on August 15.

De Lima said the video showed that the truck was “haphazardly inspected” when it exited the NBP compound.

She has since issued memos to 10 custodial officers and personnel asking them to explain why administrative sanctions should not be imposed on them following the disappearance of Laciste.

Laciste had told reporters the truck he boarded had several passengers whom he described as “Chinese-speaking.” He identified another passenger only as “Rodriguez.”

Laciste said he never spoke to the passengers.

Hitched with Chinese

“Simmabitak lang kadagidiay Chinese. Imbabadak idiay Baclaran. Pinagpagnak Baclaran aginggana Sampaloc ta awan kuartak agingga nakiluganak Dalin liner agpa-Isabela idi. (I just hitched a ride with the

Chinese. They dropped me off at Baclaran. I walked from Baclaran to Sampaloc because I had no money. I later rode a Dalin Liner bus bound for Isabela),” Laciste said.

Mabanag said Laciste’s relatives first saw him in Barangay (village) Palutan in San Mariano on the night of August 15. Laciste is from Barangay Santa Filomena, a nearby village.

He was captured in a warehouse allegedly owned by one Jefrey Yap in Barangay Roxas, Naguilian town, De Lima disclosed.

Change of heart

On his hit job, Laciste’s story was that he had a change of heart and was about to warn the targets about the plot when he was arrested by policemen.

Last week, De Lima admitted there could have been a “semblance of truth” to Go’s claim that he was abducted by four men from inside the NBP compound.

Go, who is sickly and scheduled for release next year, was reportedly asked for P100 million but was released after paying only P40,000. Go’s relatives had raised the alarm about the kidnapping on August 14.

De Lima said she had since discovered that some wives of well-off prisoners had also been threatened and made to cough up money after visiting their husbands at the NBP. The sting operation is referred to as “hulidap,” a combination of huli (arrest) and holdup.—With Christine O. Avendaño

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TAGS: hit job, Rolito Go, Rommel Laciste
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