Police probe Belmonte slay try
While reports on the ambush attempt against Iligan City Rep. Vicente Belmonte Jr. are not enough to rule that it was “politically motivated,” investigators are examining all possible angles, according to Interior Secretary Mar Roxas.
“So far, the reports that we have received are technical CSI-type of information,” Roxas told a press briefing at Camp Crame on Friday.
“Unfortunately, fingerprints, number of cases of bullets, angle do not contain information about the motive,” he said.
The car in which Belmonte was riding had just left the Laguindingan Airport in Misamis Oriental when it was fired at by unidentified armed men last Thursday afternoon. The Mindanao lawmaker was injured and three of his aides and bodyguards were killed.
Roxas said the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) and the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) are interviewing all the witnesses and looking at all the evidence they can collect from the vehicle.
“We will not stop until we get the culprits,” said Deputy Director General Leonardo Espina, officer in charge of the Philippine National Police (PNP).
“What is important is to give justice to the good congressmen and the three who were killed,” he said.
Espina said the police may be able to come up with the motive behind the ambush and find suspects within the next few days.
In a television interview, Belmonte said that politics was the likely motive for the ambush, but did not categorically say if he suspected anyone. “Iligan is chaotic,” he said in Cebuano.
Edmundo Pacamalan, the provincial administrator of Misamis Oriental, said Belmonte had told him that the lawmaker had an idea who had ordered the attack. “He said the attack was political in nature,” Pacamalan said.
The Special Investigation Task Group (SITG) investigating the ambush attempt is following several leads, including politics and reported threats against Belmonte, said Senior Supt. Leonilo Cabug, the Misamis Oriental police chief.
“We are looking at all possible angles,” said Cabug. He said the task force had already gathered various pieces of evidence and eyewitness accounts and a sketch of the suspects will be made with the help of witnesses.
Cabug said the police were also waiting for Belmonte’s affidavit but that they were also giving him time to recover. “Belmonte is still in a state of shock,” he said.
He said the SITG would also look into the threats that Belmonte had reportedly been receiving.
According to a source, Belmonte has been at odds with several politicians in Iligan City and Lanao del Norte and some of the recent killings in the city may have also been politically motivated.
Belmonte has criticized Iligan Mayor Celso Regencia for the killings which, he said, reflected Regencia’s leadership.
According to the source, it is also a matter of public knowledge in Iligan that Belmonte and Regencia, who once served as city director, were at odds especially when the congressman gave his support last March to a complaint against the mayor for grave abuse of authority, graft, dishonesty, conduct prejudicial to the service filed by a dismissed city legal officer.
In Iligan City, Regencia said he felt alluded to when Belmonte made comments after the ambush on the lawmaker.
But he said he had no reason to harm Belmonte. “Congressman Belmonte is not my enemy,” he told the Inquirer.
In a statement on Friday, Regencia said he was waiting for the results of the investigation and that his administration would help in the efforts to arrest the perpetrators of the slay attempt on Belmonte’s life.
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