MANILA, Philippines (3rd UPDATE) – Two inmates at the New Bilibid Prison – both clients of former Batangas 2nd District congressman Edgar Mendoza – conspired to kill the lawyer, the Philippine National Police Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (PNP CIDG) announced on Thursday, January 23.
CIDG chief Brigadier General Jose Napoleon Coronel identified the principal suspect as murder convict Sherwin Sanchez, who allegedly conspired with fellow inmate Arthur Fajardo to have Mendoza killed.
Mendoza and his aides, Ruel Ruiz and Nicanor Mendoza, were found burnt to the bone in the former lawmaker’s vehicle in Tiaong, Quezon, on January 9.
“Based on the information we have gathered and statements of witnesses, the victim was ordered killed upon the instructions of principal suspect Sherwin Sanchez who is presently detained at the New Bilibid Prison, in conspiracy with another detainee at the New Bilibid Prison, Mr Arthur Fajardo, who is a member of the Fajardo kidnap-for-ransom group who has been detained since 2005,” Coronel said in a news briefing in Camp Crame.
The police identified the 5 suspects involved in the killing as Jael Fajardo, Arthur’s wife; Jael’s household worker Madonna Palomar and her errand runner Kristine Fernandez; Carlo Acuña; and Ericsson Balbastro, who Coronel said was “involved in the killing, burning, and transporting of remains” of the 3 victims.
The 5 suspects were arrested on Wednesday, January 22.
Coronel said another suspect, Rodel Mercado, remained at large and was the subject of manhunt operations. There were also two other suspects – a man and a woman – who were not identified at the moment.
Coronel said the police used interviews with witnesses, CCTV footage, and forensic evidence from the cellphone of the victims’ relatives and the victims’ cellphone transmissions to trace the itinerary of Mendoza and his aides, which later helped them identify the suspects.
Asked for the motive of the principal suspect, Coronel said Sanchez was a client of Mendoza, who was a lawyer. The cases of Sanchez, who was convicted of murder in 2015, were on transactions involving sums of money and real property.
“Apparently on the day he disappeared, and later on found dead, he was supposed to collect a sum of money from representatives of the principal suspect in Calamba,” Coronel said.
He said based on the testimonies of the witnesses and the confession of some of the suspects, Sanchez and Mendoza had disagreements on the amount to be collected by the lawyer, but later agreed on a sum “amounting to millions of pesos.”
Sanchez, however, had no intention to pay him from the start.
“Instead of paying the amount, amounting to millions of pesos, they just contacted a hired gun, contracted killers for the killing of Mr Mendoza for the sum of P100,000,” Coronel said.
The CIDG chief said Sanchez tapped fellow inmate Fajardo, also a client of Mendoza, to set up the slay. Fajardo contacted his wife, Jael, to hire the killers. Jael turned out to be the “client” whom Mendoza was to meet on the day he was last seen alive. (READ: Mendoza family urges ‘client’ of slain ex-Batangas congressman to hep cops)
Coronel said that when Mendoza and his aides went to the home of Jael supposedly to collect the money owed to the lawyer, they were served coffee laced with sleeping pills. They were later stabbed and struck with a hard object by the hired killers.
He said the 3 were also brought to San Juan, Batangas, before they were brought to Tiaong in Quezon, where the suspects burnt down Mendoza’s car with the victims.
Coronel said Balbastro was seen in CCTV footage driving the car of Mendoza, with the other suspect, Mercado in a motorcycle, behind him. The CIDG chief said the victims were already dead when they were burnt in the vehicle and were presumed to have died on the afternoon of January 8.
Responding to questions, Coronel said that while authorities were tracking down the suspects, Jael voluntarily surrendered through the mediation of a Police Regional Office 4 officer that she knew.
He also said that the 3 hired killers – Acuña, Balbastro, and Mercado – received a P10,000 downpayment for the job but were not paid the balance. The 3 also had previous cases and were detained in Batangas, but were later released.
PNP chief Lieutenant General Archie Gamboa said the CIDG has filed information for 3 counts or murder against the suspects before the Calamba City Prosecutor’s Office.
Mendoza died just days before his 70th birthday. – Rappler.com