NBI, PNP seek murder raps against Iligan mayor
MANILA, Philippines–The National Bureau of Investigation and the Philippine National Police have asked the Department of Justice prosecutors to file cases of multiple murder and multiple frustrated murder against Iligan City Mayor Celso Regencia for allegedly masterminding the ambush attempt on Iligan Rep. Vicente Belmonte Jr. that killed four of his aides and injured three others.
Also facing the same charges are Regencia’s aides and supporters Amador Baller, Rogelio Pitos Sr. and Jr., Romeo Suganub, Dominador Tumala, Peejay Capangpangan, Alfeo Arnoco, Dodo Silvano and at least six other unidentified suspects.
The cases against the suspects were filed last Jan. 21 before the El Salvador City prosecutor’s office in Misamis Oriental, according to NBI Director Virgilio Mendez’s report to Justice Secretary Leila de Lima.
The suspects were tagged by Tumala, who had confessed to be part of the group of gunmen that participated in the ambush. He is the only suspect in police custody.
Tumala claimed he was forced to spill the beans on the ambush because Arnoco, one of Regencia’s bodyguards, was allegedly mad at him for failing to escape and suspected him of being a traitor.
NBI Northeastern Mindanao regional Chief Ricardo Diaz and PNP-Criminal Investigation and Detection Group Unit regional head Senior Supt. Alexander Tagum recommended that Tumala be made a state witness.
Belmonte’s two-vehicle convoy was waylaid by armed men on a road near the Laguindingan Airport in neighboring Misamis Oriental last Dec. 11.
Killed in the ambush were his driver France Ian Dumaguig, security aide Eustiquio Silawan Jr. and police escort PO3 Marcos Andres. Belmonte and two other aides, one of them a policeman, were injured and brought to a hospital in Cagayan de Oro City.
Authorities arrested Tumala in Laguindingan town two days later. A fragmentation grenade and an M16 Armalite rifle were allegedly seized from him. He also tested positive for gunpower burns.
Tumala also led the authorities to the meeting places and safehouses used for the ambush operation where Regencia and the other suspects gave the briefings and instructions. He said he and other gunmen were recruited by Suganub in August last year and were promised P50,000 for the hit.
Regencia, according to Tumala, wanted to get rid of Belmonte, a member of the ruling Liberal Party, because the latter wanted to run for mayor of Iligan. With Belmonte eliminated, Baller, a cockfighting farm owner, will also reportedly seek the congressional seat.