De Lima orders probe on gang members’ slay
De Lima orders the NBI to investigate the killing of two fugitives associated with the Ozamis robbery group

SOMETHING FISHY. Justice Secretary Leila De Lima orders the NBI to investigate the death of the two fugitives associated with the Ozamis robbery group. FILE/AFP PHOTO / Jay DIRECTO

MANILA, Philippines – Justice Secretary Leila De Lima ordered on Tuesday, July 16, the National Bureau Investigation (NBI) to investigate the “very suspicious” death of two high-profile fugitives while in police custody in Laguna.

In a press conference, De Lima said she was alarmed by the news that Ozamis robbery gang group leader Ricky Cadavero and member Wilfredo Panogalinga were allegedly killed in an ambush.

“I was alarmed and I smell something very fishy,” De Lima said.

Cadavero was recaptured last July 12 after he escaped last December 2012, De Lima said. Cadavero was a high-risk fugitive as the alleged leader of the notorious Ozamis robbery group. 

He and Panongalinga were presented at a press conference in Cramp Crame on Monday, July 15. They were supposed to have been brought straight to the New Bilibid Prisons (NBP) in Muntinlupa after, but two senior police commanders intervened and ordered them brought to the regional police headquarters in Cavite instead. 

Supposedly on their way to the NBP from Cavite, the two were killed in an ambush in San Pedro, Laguna. De Lima said San Pedro was out of the way.

De Lima said her suspicions came about after police officials announced in Camp Crame that Cadavero and Panogalinga had already been turned over to the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) when the ambush happened. De Lima insisted that “officially and legally” the two were still under the custody of the police.

“Ang tanong ko: Bakit pinalabas nila na tinurn over nila sa amin na hindi naman pala tunay pa na i-tuturn over,” De Lima said. (My question is: Why did they announce that they have turned over [Cadavero and Panogalinga] to us when they actually haven’t.)

Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas also said he has ordered the National Police Commission and the PNP to investigate the incident.

Offer refused

BuCor Prison Supt  Venancio Tesoro explained that after the press conference in Camp Crame on July 15, the cops were supposed to escort the fugitives to the NBP, but Southern Tagalog police chief Chief Supt Benito Estipona and Police Supt. Danilo Mendoza of the same regional unit intervened.

Tesoro said both Estipona and Mendoza advised the cops that they should bring the fugitives to their camp in Cavite for inquest proceedings. Tesoro said this could be done in NBP, but the police officials prevailed upon him.

De Lima questioned the officials’ move and why they did not clear this with her.

“If that was cleared with me, I would have told them not to do that.  I would not have agreed. I would have insisted that the inquest be inside the NBP,” De Lima said. 

De Lima asked Estipona and Mendoza to explain “the whole thing.”

“There are a lot of questions that need to be answered by the PNP crew,” De Lima said.  –

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