AKLAN, Philippines (3rd UPDATE) – Barely a week after they met with Interior and Local Government Secretary Ismael "Mike" Sueno, a suspected drug lord in Iloilo City and his wife were killed after disembarking from a passenger ship at a port in Barangay Caticlan, Malay, Aklan on Monday, August 29.
Businessman Melvin "Boyet" Odicta Sr and his wife Merriam Regalado Odicta were shot while walking from a 2GO ship to the passengers' exit area at the Caticlan Jetty Port and Terminal, according to Aklan police provincial director Senior Superintendent John Mitchell Jamili.
Just last week, on Thursday, August 25, Odicta and his wife met with Sueno to clear their names of alleged involvement in drug trafficking.
Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa also said he did receive surrender feelers from the couple.
PDEA watch list
Odicta Sr was on the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) watch list of drug personalities of Iloilo.
Odicta also operates vans for hire, a restaurant, and a fleet of taxis in Tanza, Iloilo City.
Police Inspector Herminiano Abines, acting chief of Malay, Aklan, said the shooting happened at around 1:20 am. It was Merriam Odicta who was shot first, and her husband still managed to call their lawyer – who was waiting at the port – to tell him they had been shot.
The gunman walked casually after the shooting and later fled via the parking area nearby. The couple was pronounced dead on arrival in a local hospital.
No other passengers were hurt.
Police suspect that the gunman had boarded the same ship and probably shot the couple from the back. He waited for at least 20 passengers to leave the ship before shooting the Odictas, police said.
Caticlan port is the main jump-off point of the popular tourist destination of Boracay Island, off the northern end of Aklan.
"Galing sa Batangas ang barko. Ang dalawang victims dinala sa Malay Municipal Hospital sa Barangay Motag. (The ship came from Batangas. The two victims were brought to the Malay Municipal Hospital in Barangay Motag.) They were pronounced dead on arrival by attending physicians," Abines said.
SOCO initial findings
Scene of the Crime Operatives (SOCO) team leader Raymark Legarda confirmed a lone gunman killed the Odicta couple.
Melvin sustained 6 gunshot wounds in his head, upper right shoulder, butt, thigh, and leg, while Merriam had gunshot wounds in her stomach and back.
"Pagdating natin sa crime scene wala na ang mga bangkay, dinala na sa hospital. May mga blood stains tayong nakita doon mismo sa jetty port," Legarda also said.
(When we arrived at the crime scene, the bodies were no longer there. They had already been brought to the hospital. We spotted blood stains at the jetty port.)
Recovered from the crime scene were 3 pieces of .45 caliber ammunition, one piece of .45 magazine, 3 fired cartridge cases of a .45 caliber pistol, and a fired bullet of unknown caliber.
Two pairs of paraffin casts, post-mortem fingerprints, and cut-cloth from the victims were also taken by the SOCO during post-mortem examinations.
Call for help
Gualberto Cataluna, lawyer of Odicta, was waiting outside the port terminal in Caticlan when the shots were fired.
"Si Merriam ang naunang binaril... fatal ang tama. Nakatawag pa si Melvin sa akin na may tama rin ng baril... mga 100 meters kami sa kanila sa labas ng terminal building ngunit 'di ko nakita ang actual incident... may narinig kaming mga apat hanggang lima na magkasunod na putok ng baril," the lawyer said.
(Merriam was the first to be shot... the shot was fatal. Melvin was even able to call me to tell he was shot. We were around 100 meters away from them outside the terminal but we were not able to see the shooting... we heard 4 to 5 successive gunshots.)
Cataluna added he was with the Odictas' son when the shooting happened.
Dela Rosa: Surrender feelers
In a radio interview, PNP chief Dela Rosa, who visited Boracay on August 27, said he received surrender feelers from Odicta but with certain conditions.
"Hindi ko nakita itong si Odicta ng personal. May mga feelers na mag-surrender sila sa akin ngunit may mga conditions. Hindi naman ito natuloy. Gusto natin siya na humarap sa korte sa kanyang mga kasalanan 'pag nakasuhan, hindi 'yung patayin na lang siya kasama ang asawa," Dela Rosa said.
(I wasn't able to see Odicta in person. There have been surrender feelers from them, but with conditions. It did not push through. We wanted him to face the courts so he can be held accountable for his crimes, not to be killed along with his wife.)
Police are looking into whether the Odictas' meeting with the DILG chief may have prompted the shooting.
"The killing is possibly masterminded by his powerful associates who are afraid that the victims disclosed their association to Interior Secretary Ismael Bueno," said police regional director Chief Superintendent Jose Gentiles.
Gentiles also appealed to the public for information regarding the case.
"PRO-6 values the life of every individual and respects human rights and due process. We appeal to the public [with] direct knowledge of the incident to come out [in] the open and help in our investigation so that justice will prevail," he said.
'Not killed by police'
Meanwhile, Chief Inspector Mark Evan Salvo, chief of the Malay police, refuted claims of Odicta family members that the responding policemen "killed" the alleged drug lord.
"'Pag ganyang shooting incident, dinadala namin sa hospital ang mga biktima. Ang unang trabaho ng mga nagrespondeng pulis ay ang kaligtasan at buhay ng mga biktima. Hindi totoo na nakaposas sila nang isakay sa sasakyan," Salvo said in a press conference on Monday afternoon.
(In shooting incidents, we bring victims to the hospital. The first job of the responding policemen is to ensure the safety of the victims. It isn't true that the Odictas were handcuffed when they were brought to a vehicle.)
"Ang mga pulis, hindi kami gagawa ng ganoong karahasan. Paramount ang respect for life," Salvo added.
(Police wouldn't carry out such violence. Respect for life is paramount.) – Rappler.com