CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Philippines – A vice mayoral aspirant in Misamis Oriental surrendered to police authorities on Sunday, January 23, after a judge ordered him arrested for allegedly masterminding the December 2, 2021 shooting death of a prominent physician in Cagayan de Oro.
Brigadier General Benjamin Acorda Jr., police director for Northern Mindanao, identified the suspect as 51-year-old Balingoan councilor Richard Gepte, who is running for vice mayor in the Misamis Oriental town.
Gepte handed himself over to authorities at the Carmelite Monastery in Barangay Camaman-an, Cagayan de Oro on Sunday afternoon.
Judge Gil Bollozos of the Regional Trial Court of Misamis Oriental Branch 21 issued an arrest warrant for murder against Gepte in December after he was identified by suspected gunmen as the brains behind the murder of Dr. Raul Winston Andutan Jr., a urologist who served as medical director of Maria Reyna-Xavier University Hospital, at the corner of 12th and 29th streets in Nazareth, Cagayan de Oro.
Acorda said it was Gepte’s lawyer, Silvan Sabio, who convinced the politician to turn himself in.
Major Evan Viñas, the spokesman of the Cagayan de Oro City Police Office (COCPO), said Gepte was identified by three suspected gunmen who were arrested the day after Dr. Andutan was ambushed.
The suspected triggerman, Joel Nacua, and accomplices Marjun Cabog and Jomar Adlao – all from neighboring Bukidnon province – were arrested by the police based on the statements of witnesses and CCTV recordings near the crime scene.
Police were still looking for a fourth suspect, an ex-soldier identified as Rene Tortosa, who allegedly recruited and planned the ambush.
Viñas said the hitmen were contracted for P150,000 to kill the doctor due to a land dispute in Balingoan town.
The Andutans own a beach resort in the town “and there was a dispute over some right-of-way issues,” Viñas told Rappler.
Dr. Andutan, 62, was driving his silver Toyota Fortuner when he was shot allegedly by Nacua who rode at the back of a motorcycle driven by Cabog. Police said Tortosa and Adlao served as lookouts.
The physician, who was headed to the hospital, was shot several times and died on the spot, police said.
In an earlier interview, Nacua said they waylaid the vehicle and then fired shots at Andutan who was at least three feet away from him.
Nacua told reporters, “I continued shooting until the vehicle stopped. I must have fired four shots.”
He said Tortosa and Adlao monitored Dr. Andutan until he left his house in neighboring Barangay Macasandig, and then alerted him and Cabog as soon as the physician did.
Colonel Aaron Mandia, city police director, said prosecutors recommended no bail bond against the suspects. –Rappler.com
Froilan Gallardo is a Mindanao-based journalist and an awardee of the Aries Rufo Journalism Fellowship