CABANATUAN CITY – Now that the Philippine National Police (PNP) had identified the mastermind of the murder of the late Mayor Virigilio Bote, 57, of Gen. Tinio town, the overwhelming sentiment from officials and residents of Nueva Ecija which is begging for answer is: “How about those of the recent murders of some high profile personalities in the province?
On Monday at a Camp Crame press briefing, PNP officials named the possible suspect as Christian Manlutac Saquilabon, owner of Fortnight Construction that had a P96-million tourism infrastructure project of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) in the late mayor’s town.
Dir. Gen. Oscar Albayalde, PNP chief, and Chief Supt. Amador Corpus, director of Police Regional Office 3, led in the media briefing. The project, they said, is about the further development of the Minalungao National Park, a protected area which boasts among others, a river with high wall of limestone on both sides and several hidden caves. Some of the caves, according to report, lead to Biac-na-Bato in San Miguel, Bulacan.
The two arrested suspects, and one who surrendered “pointed to Saquilabon as the man who hired them to the hit job.” The motive was allegedly because the mayor was making it difficult for the contractor to proceed with the project saying “sobra na ginigipit sila” (they were given a very hard time) in the implementation of the project.
The other killings that begs for the identification of the masterminds were:
Last June 23, engineer-contractor Manuel Lacsamana, 51, was gunned down by a motor-riding suspect while driving his pickup vehicle. He was heading home after a meeting with a group of quarry haulers when he was murdered.
Lacsamana, who owns a quarry operation and operators of several gas stations in the province, was board chair of the Central Luzon Media Association (CLMA). The police have yet to name a suspect and or identify who ordered his killing.
Barely 24 hours after Lacsamana’s death, another engineer-contractor Manuel Farin, 64, of Barangay Cabugao, Sto. Domingo, Nueva Ecija was shot and killed at the terrace of his house by a lone assassin. He was then drinking liquor with his brother, a brother-in-law, and a friend when fired at by the gunman.
The two Catholic priests, Fr. Marcelito Paez, 72, and Fr. Richmond Nilo, 40, parish priest of the St. Vincent Ferrer Parish of Zaragoza town, were gunned down in similar fashion. Paez, a retired priest who was described as heavily involved in the social action projects of the Diocese of San Jose, was fired at by motorcycle-riding suspects in Lambakin, Jaen that leads to the Zaragoza road while diving home to “Bahay Pari” retirement house in Baloc, Sto. Domingo, Nueva Ecija. He was brought, with two bullets wounds in the body, to a hospital in a nearby San Leonardo town but was declared dead hours later. His killing happened hours after he reportedly facilitated the release of a suspected NPA leader, according to an announcement of a militant group.
Police investigators had no announcement yet about the solution of Paez’ murder.
Fr. Nilo, of the Diocese of Cabanatuan, was about to off er Mass at a chapel in Barangay Mayamot in Zaragoza town when gunned down. In this case, however, PNP chief Director General Oscar Albayalde told media that the mastermind in his killing was Manuel Torres who reportedly hired killers to gun down the priest.
The police said the mastermind was angry at Nilo for pursing a case of sexual molestation of the mastemind’s nephew on Nilo’s altar boys. Because of the case, the mastermind’s nephew was not able to pursue his studies to become a priest.
Last January 14, the 38-year-old executive assistant of Gov. Czarina Umali was killed while her husband, Carlito, 45, was wounded in a gun attack in Barangay Marcos, Talavera, Nueva Ecija here around 6:30 p.m. They stopped at a gas station for refueling their vehicle when approached by a gunman and shot them.
The police arrested a man and his nephew later for their alleged involvement in the attack. They were identified as Anastacio Geron, 47, and his nephew Armando Geron, 26, both of San Jose City. Another suspect, Reynaldo Iglesia, also of San Jose, surrendered later.
They had not identifi ed the mastermind behind the killing of Hernandez nor the motive for the murder was established.