Ex-Isabela mayor's alleged hitman nabbed
TUGUEGARAO CITY, Philippines – Authorities arrested the second most wanted person in Cagayan Valley, suspected of being one of the killers of two policemen in Isabela province.
In a press briefing on Tuesday, March 20, Chief Superintendent Jose Mario Espino, the regional police chief, identified the suspect as certain Ronnie Dela Cruz, 54, and a resident of Gamu town in Isabela.
Espino said Dela Cruz was allegedly a "gun for hire" and a member of the private armed groups (PAGs) of former Gamu Mayor Fernando Cumigad.
Dela Cruz was working as a piggery helper in a church in San Manuel, Tarlac, where he was arrested by joint forces of Cagayan Valley and Tarlac police, reports said.
Dela Cruz was charged with two counts of murder for the killing of Inspector Jelowie Antonio and Police Officer 3 Jaime Manaligod in June 8, 2010 in Barangay Union in Gamu town.
Antonio and Manaligod, and other members of the Philippine National Police (PNP)-Isabela Trackers Team were reportedly conducting follow-up operations on the reported presence of private armed groups Gamu when they were ambushed by more or less 8 armed men.
Police would later identify Dela Cruz as one of the killers.
Aside from two counts of murder, the suspect is also facing frustrated murder, robbery, and carnapping charges.
Although identified in the charges against Dela Cruz, former Mayor Cumigad, however, did not face charges for the murder of the two police officers.
In a message to Rappler, Cumigad denied Dela Cruz worked for him, and that he only knew of him as his supporter.
"Hindi ko tao 'yan, pero from Gamu so bale kababayan ko lang," Cumigad said, who is now assigned as a secretariat of the PDP-Laban Cagayan Valley.
Dela Cruz also denied the charges against him, including working as hired killer for Cumigad.
With the arrest of Dela Cruz, Espino said he instructed the police in Cagayan Valley region to intensify efforts in dismantling private armed groups, especially that the 2018 Sangguniang Kabataan and barangay elections are nearing. – Rappler.com