Monday, August 12, 2013
GAPAN CITY, Nueva Ecija – An incumbent barangay chairman closely allied with the father of incumbent Mayor Maricel Natividad was charged with an information for multiple murder and multiple frustrated murder before the city prosecutor's office and detained at the police headquarters here for the cold-blooded massacre of a rookie policeman and three other civilians following an aborted ambush attempt on the son of a former mayoral candidate in a broad daylight ambush Tuesday.
Police Superintendent Bernard Orig, Gapan police chief, said Montano Barlis, barangay chairman of Sta. Cruz, is now detained at the police station here following his arrest Tuesday night by a police team accompanied by Emerson Pascual who was the target of the ambush attempt.
Barlis is a staunch ally of Natividad's father, former three-term mayor Ernesto Natividad who is also facing charges for the raid in a cockpit arena owned by the Pascuals in 2006. Two of Pascual's brothers - Erickson and Ebertson - were killed in the attack.
Barlis said the five other suspects have yet to be identified although they will soon come out with cartographic sketches based on the description of witnesses.
Three persons were killed following the ambush attempt which triggered a 10-minute firefight in a restaurant along Tinio St., Barangay San Lorenzo.
Killed were Police Officer 2 Jefferson Lim, King Jasper Juvinal, student of the Midway Maritime Academy, of Barangay Mangino and driver Rufino Vendivil, 44, of Barangay Mahipon. Juvinal and Vendivil both died on-the-spot while Lim died while undergoing treatment at a local hospital.
On Tuesday afternoon, a fourth victim Consuelo Manse, 86, died at the intensive care unit of the Good Samaritan Hospital. Rodney Garcia,16 is listed in stable condition but is still confined at the intensive care unit of the same hospital.
Pascual, whose two brothers were among those massacred in the 2006 cockpit attack here, escaped unhurt.
Region 3 police director Chief Superintendent Edgar Ladao and provincial police director Senior Superintendent Crizaldo Nieves both visited Pascual at his residence in Barangay Pambuan here at noon.
Police said Pascual’s group alighted from their vehicle and was about to enter a restaurant when the suspects, all armed with automatic gunfire, shot them. They fled aboard a beige Toyota Hi-lux vehicle with license plate TT-1506.
Some 500 slugs of various types of guns were left in the crime scene from 9 mm and .45 caliber revolvers, M-14 Armalite rifle, AK-47 and M-16 rifles.
Orig said they have yet to establish the motive for the attack but said they are looking into politics and old grudge.
Pascual said prior to the incident, he came across Barlis. He said he just attended the interment rites for a childhood friend and even greeted Barlis. “A minute after, it happened,” he said.
The elder Natividad, his late brother Romeo and 17 others were tagged for the killings of the Pascual brothers. A year later, the Pascuals’ patriarch Rodrigo ran for mayor against Ernesto but lost.
The elder Natividad went into hiding in February 2012 after a warrant for his arrest was issued by a Manila court in connection with the raid and after all 19 suspects were placed on a hold-departure order by the Bureau of Immigration and Deportation (BID) on orders of Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 8 Judge Felixberto Olalia Jr.
The Pascual family has raised a P1-million reward for the arrest of Natividad and his co-accused. The elder Natividad was arrested while undergoing dialysis treatment in Metro Manila a few months before the May 2013 elections. Romeo died while in hiding.
The Department of Justice initially ordered the filing of murder charges against the suspects in 2009 and forwarded these to the Office of the Ombudsman for review.
On February 10, 2009, the Office of the Ombudsman affirmed the DOJ ruling. But when the two Natividads and Ricardo Peralta - another suspect - filed a motion for reconsideration, then Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez reversed her ruling on April 8,2009, excluding the three from the charge sheet.
Mrs. Cristina Pascual, mother of the slain brothers, appealed the Ombudsman ruling.
On November 25, 2011, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales found probable cause and ordered the filing of murder charges against the two Natividads and Peralta, in effect reversing a 2009 ruling of her predecessor Gutierrez and granting the motion for reconsideration of Mrs. Pascual.
The latest Ombudsman ruling said the DOJ ruling should have been affirmed outright because the three filed their motions for reconsideration way too late, thus rendering as final and executory the Ombudsman’s February 10 ruling affirming the DOJ’s findings.
The murder cases were eventually transferred to the sala of Manila RTC Branch 10 Judge Virgilio Alameda who last September 17 also found probable cause against Natividad and Peralta based on the records of the preliminary investigation and affirmed the findings of both the Office of the Ombudsman and the DOJ. (Manny Galvez)