Raps filed vs Iligan City mayor, 14 others for attack on congressman
CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Philippines – The Criminal Investigation and Detection Group in Northern Mindanao filed multiple murder and multiple frustrated murder complaints against Iligan City Mayor Celso Regencia and 14 others for the December 11 slay try on Iligan City Representative Vicente “Varf” Belmonte, during which three others were killed.
Belmonte survived the ambush, which took place as he was coming out of the Laguindingan Airport in Misamis Oriental after arriving from Manila.
However, three of his companions – including a police escort – were killed in the attack.
A suspect, Dominador Tumala, was subsequently arrested and several firearms, hidden near the airport, were recovered.
Senior Supt. Alexander Tagum, CIDG head for Northern Mindanao, said the cases against Regencia and the other respondents were filed at the Misamis Oriental Prosecutors Office here on Wednesday, for preliminary investigation.
A staffer at the office of the Provincial Prosecutor’s Office, who declined to be identified, confirmed that they had received the complaint sheet from the CIDG.
The staff worker said the provincial prosecutor would form a panel to conduct a preliminary investigation of the complaints against Regencia and the other suspects.
Tagum said the cases they had filed were based on pieces of evidence gathered by the CIDG, the Misamis Oriental Provincial Police office, the Special Investigation Task Group Belmonte, Regional Investigation Unit, the police Crime Laboratory, the Northern Mindanao police, and the National Bureau of Investigation in Northern Mindanao.
Regencia could not be reached yet for comment on the filing of the charges.
But earlier, he responded to a statement by Belmonte, which insinuated that the ambush was politically motivated.
Although Belmonte was not categorical on whom he had suspected to be behind the slay-try on him, Regencia said he felt alluded to and denied any hand in the crime.
Edmundo Pacamalan, the provincial administrator of Misamis Oriental, earlier said that during his conversation with Belmonte at the provincial hospital in Alubijid town, the Iligan City lawmaker told him that he had an idea who ordered the attack.
“He said the attack was political in nature,” Pacamalan said.
It was an open book in Iligan that he and Regencia, who once served as the city police director there, were at odds, especially when he supported a complaint against the mayor, and amid rumors he would be running against Regencia in the next elections.
In March, Belmonte even went to the Iligan City police station – along with Vice Mayor Ruderic Marzo and nine councilors, “to manifest the paragraph 19 of the administrative case filed by one lawyer Tomas Cabili dated Feb. 25, 2014 against Mayor Celso Regencia before the Office of the President.”
Cabili had filed a complaint against Regencia for grave abuse of authority, graft, dishonesty, conduct prejudicial to the service after he was fired as city legal officer.
In a report in March, the Cagayan de Oro City-based Gold Star Daily quoted Providencio Abragan Jr., the chairman of Iligan City’s committee on public safety, as saying that Cabili once told him that Regencia was hurt by criticisms and that the mayor allegedly said “it was easy to eliminate (meaning kill) media critics, LP officials and other critics.”
Abragan said that Cabili had told him that Regencia uttered these words during a caucus at a convent, which Catholic priest Jemar Vera Cruz, had also attended.
Regencia denied Cabili’s claim.
The mayor was also dragged into the killing of DxLS Fernando Solijon who was murdered on August 29, 2013.
Solijon was known to be close to Belmonte.
But Regencia said suspicions about his involvement in the Solijon killing were baseless and that he even offered a reward to speed up the delivery of justice to the slain radioman’s family.
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