Ilonggo ‘Dragon’ slain
A BUSINESSMAN and his wife were shot and killed moments after they stepped off a roll-on, roll-off vessel in the port of Caticlan in Malay, Aklan province, at 1:30 a.m. on Monday, two days after the slain man was named by the Philippine National Police chief allegedly as the No. 1 drug lord, nicknamed “Dragon,” on Panay Island.
Melvin Odicta, 56, and his wife Meriam, 51, sustained multiple gunshot wounds and were taken to the hospital, where they were pronounced dead in the latest apparent case of extrajudicial execution in President Duterte’s war on illegal drugs that had drawn concern among human rights activists here and abroad.
Three companions of the couple—Maria Victoria Laygon and Marlon and Manolito Susano—were arrested on Sunday afternoon in the port of Batangas where the group had boarded the MV St. Anthony de Padua, which was on its way to Odiongan in Romblon province en route to Caticlan before noon.
Dogs of the Coast Guard K-9 unit detected three handguns from two vehicles the three were using.
Because no documents were produced for the guns, Laygon and the Susanos, described as drivers, were detained in the port and their vehicles were seized, according to Supt. Barnard Danie Dasugo, Batangas City police chief.
The three had failed to show papers for the guns, Dasugo said.
The Odicta couple were killed two days after Melvin was identified by PNP Director General Ronald dela Rosa as “Dragon,” allegedly the top drug lord operating in Iloilo province and parts of Panay.
The Odictas appeared before Interior Secretary Ismael Sueño on Thursday to deny that they were into illegal drugs and to seek protection, their lawyers said.
Wife shot first
Meriam, who was behind her husband, was first to fall in the attack, apparently by a lone gunman, on the 100-meter walkway toward the exit of the Caticlan jetty port.
Melvin was still able to turn his head to check on his wife before he, too, was shot, witnesses said.
The couple were later brought to Malay Municipal Hospital where Dr. Michelle Depakakibo declared them dead on arrival at 2 a.m.
Meriam had a bullet wound in the body while Melvin was shot in the head, body and leg, said Senior Supt. John Mitchell Jamili, Aklan police director.
During his visit in Catbalogan City, Samar province, to attend the wake of PO1 Gary Gabaguing, who was killed in an anti-illegal drug operation, President Duterte was asked to comment on the killing of the Odicta couple.
“I cannot say anything, good or bad,” he said of Odicta. “That’s what he chose. He was corrupting everybody… He was being hunted. Bad luck caught up on him. Who wants to take over Odicta’s place? There’s a vacancy now.”
Lawyers of the Odictas said the killing of the couple was well-planned, but they stopped short at saying that it was a rubout.
Police dismissed speculation that policemen could be behind the shooting and said an investigation would be conducted to determine the identity of the assailant and the motive in the killing.
Police and port authorities in Batangas were alerted on an anonymous tip through the PNP’s Anti-Illegal Drugs Group in Camp Crame that contraband was being transported by heavily armed men in four vehicles going to the port, according to Senior Insp. Glenda Cleofe.
Cleofe, in a telephone call from Batangas, said a .45 cal. pistol and a 9-mm pistol were found inside the Toyota Grandia while a .25 cal. hand gun was detected by an X-ray machine inside a bag in the Toyota Coaster.
Also recovered were three magazines with 36 rounds of .45 cal. bullets, two magazines with 23 rounds for a 9-mm handgun and a magazine with eight rounds of bullets for a .25 cal. firearm, according to report of the Batangas City police station.
Cleofe said the Toyota Grandia was registered to Meriam Odicta, while the Toyota Coaster had a pending registration.
Passengers were walking in a single file after disembarking from the vessel in Caticlan when the unidentified assailant shot the couple.
A passenger walking behind Meriam told Radyo Todo Aklan that he heard a gunshot before Meriam shouted and fell. He heard more gunshots while he was helping her and saw Melvin slumped on the ground asking for help.
Gualberto Cataluña, one of Odicta’s lawyers, told the Inquirer that Melvin managed to call him in his mobile phone that he had been shot in the leg.
“He was asking for help but we could not go inside and the other passengers were running toward the exit,” said Cataluña, who was among those who were to fetch the couple at the port.
“We saw him still raising his leg and one of his hands in handcuffs before he was loaded to the police car while Meriam was loaded at the back of the driver side,” the lawyer said.
He said they followed the police patrol but got lost and later learned that the couple had been taken to the hospital a few minutes from the port.
Jamili belied the lawyer’s allegations.
“My men reported that the couple were already unconscious when they were brought to the police patrol and brought to the hospital. And why would we handcuff someone who was shot?” he told the Inquirer.
The Odicta couple had operated Melvin taxi fleet and Meriam transport service. Melvin also owned Red Paprika bar and restaurant among his businesses.
While “Dragon” was known in the drug trafficking circle, he became more prominent when he and several other persons allegedly tried to forcibly enter radio station dyOK Aksyon Radyo Iloilo. The station has been airing commentaries against illegal drugs.
Melvin and his namesake son and several other persons were facing criminal charges for the alleged attempted break-in.
In 1989, the Regional Trial Court sentenced Odicta to life imprisonment for selling marijuana. The Supreme Court affirmed his conviction in 1991. But in 1995, he was ordered released based on a petition for a writ of habeas corpus. With a report from Eto Pagaduan, contributor
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