Accomplice in Cavite killing faces raps
MANILA, Philippines (Updated) - Police are determining the charges to be filed against the man accused of helping Ronald Bae kill at least 7 people in a residential area in Kawit, Cavite last Friday, January 4.
Witnesses told police John Paul Lopez, described by police as the gunman's employee, loaded bullets to Bae's semi-automatic 45 caliber pistol as the suspect went on a shooting rampage. Lopez is now in the custody of the Cavite police.
National police spokesman Chief Sup Generoso Cerbo said Saturday, January 5, that Lopez is now considered a suspect but police are still investigating his claims that he was forced to assist Bae after the suspect threatened to kill him.
"We are investigating the level of his involvement, but definitely he faces criminal charges," Cerbo told AFP.
"If that is proven false, he would be charged with many murders," Cerbo added.
The arrested suspect tested positive for metamphetamines (more commonly known as shabu), said Kawit police investigator Plaridel Daprosa. This contradicts Lopez's earlier claim that he only went drinking with Bae the night before the incident but did not use illegal drugs with him.
Lopez surrendered to the police Friday night. Authorities tracked him down through his aunt, who convinced him to surrender.
Lopez claimed he was also a victim in the incident as he was forced to follow Bae's orders amid a threat that a bullet would be put to his head.
"Natakot din ako na ping-aano sa akin yung baril sa mukha ko. Natakot ako na pag di ko sinunod, ako naman ang mamatay," he told reporters Friday night. (I got scared when he pointed the gun to my face. I was scared that if I don't follow his order, I will also end up dead.)
Cavite Gov Juanito Victor Remulla said in a radio interview that the authorities doubted the suspect's version of events.
"He changed the clip 3 or 4 times as Bae broke into houses. He (Lopez) could have easily escaped," Remulla told DZMM radio.
Armed with a semi-automatic pistol, Bae went on a shooting rampage Friday morning, killing 8 people, including two kids. The suspect was shot dead in a gun battle with police.
Cerbo said 12 people were being treated for gunshot wounds in hospitals in Manila and Cavite following the rampage.
Drug, alcohol abuse
Daprosa told AFP the authorities were looking into the possibility that the murder spree, which police said was preceded by a four-day drug and alcohol binge, was triggered by problems in Bae's marriage.
"That's a possible reason that we're looking into. We know that the couple split a few months back," Daprosa said.
Bae was a known drug dealer and drug user, Remulla said Friday, and he had been been drinking and using drugs with Lopez since New Year's Eve. Police also found "paraphernalia" used for metamphetamines at Bae's home.
In an interview with DZMM, Bae's estranged wife, Maria Elena Bae, admitted that she caught her husband using drugs about a week ago.
Frequent methamphetamine use can lead to anti-social or even psychotic behaviour, said Derrick Carreon, spokesman for the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency.
"They may start seeing demons during withdrawal. You take it from there," he told AFP Saturday.
Friday's shooting comes amid a debate over the country's lawless gun culture, which was sparked by the death of a 7-year-old girl who was shot in the head by celebratory gunfire on New Year's Eve. (Watch more in the video below)
Stephanie Ella and her father were watching a fireworks display outside their home in Caloocan when a bullet, fired by a person welcoming the New Year, hit her.
The death triggered outrage and condemnation of poor law enforcement that allows hundreds of thousands of unregistered firearms to be on the streets. Can a gun ban prevent another shooting?
There were 1.2 million registered firearms in the Philippines as of last year, according to data from the police firearms and explosives office.
There were another roughly 600,000 unlicensed firearms in circulation across the Philippines, according to the office's records. – Rappler.com, with reports from Agence France-Presse