SAMAR, Philippines – The Department of Justice (DOJ) has indicted nine police officers for their involvement in the killings of Calbayog City Mayor Ronaldo Aquino and his security escorts in March 2021.
The police officers face four counts of murder for the deaths of Aquino, his security escort Rodeo Stario, his driver Dennis Abayon, and a passerby named Clint Paul Yauder, who was hit by a stray bullet.
One count of frustrated murder will be filed against the officers for shooting Aquino’s personal security aide Mansfield Laboni, who survived the attack.
According to the DOJ, “the prosecution panel determined that the defenses of denial, alibi, and self-defense, interposed by the respondents PNP-personnel, cannot be given weight in light of the positive assertions of the witnesses and pieces of evidence submitted by the National Bureau of Investigation.”
Aquino and his companions were killed after 267 bullets rained on them when they were ambushed in Labuyao Bridge in Barangay Lonoy last March 8, 2021.
Then Philippine National Police (PNP) chief General Debold Sinas said at that time that it was a police operation and the incident was a “shootout.”
Two others involved in the operation from the PNP side – Police Captain Joselito Tabada and Police Staff Sergeant Romeo Lauyon – were killed when the bodyguards of Aquino retaliated after they were first fired at by the cops.
In a separate probe, the National Bureau of Investigation testified during a Senate Committee hearing last June, that the killing was an ambush, based on evidence gathered from 53 witnesses and CCTV footage.
The cops who will be charged including the following:
- Lieutenant Colonel Harry Villar Sucayre;
- Major Shyrile Co Tan;
- Captain Dino Laurente Goles;
- Lieutenant Julio Salcedo Armeza, Jr.;
- Staff Sergeant Neil Matarum Cebu;
- Staff Sergeant Edsel Tan Omega;
- Patrolman Niño Cuadra Salem;
- Corporal Julius Udtujan Garcia.
Several John Does were also included in the complaint.
The counter-charges of murder, frustrated murder, attempted murder, and grave threats, filed by the PNP against Mark Aquino, the son of the late mayor, and Police Corporal Ramil Rosales were dismissed.
Meanwhile, the PNP released a statement saying it respected the legal actions taken by the DOJ.
“The PNP will extend full cooperation to the DOJ in the prosecution of this case even as we assure that the rights of the respondent police officers will be protected,” the PNP said in its statement.
But the PNP said it remained hopeful that the police officers would be able to present their side “in the interest of fair justice.”
Last December, Sucayre, Co Tan, Tan Omega, and Cebu were dismissed from service after the PNP’s Internal Affairs Service (IAS) said that it found overwhelming evidence of administrative culpability in committing grave misconduct.
Aquino, whose ambush slay is considered one of the most high-profile deaths in Eastern Visayas in almost a decade, was the second mayor of Calbayog to be killed after Reynaldo “Ining” Uy in 2011.– Rappler.com
Lance Lim is a Visayas-based journalist and an awardee of the Aries Rufo Journalism Fellowship.
There are no comments yet. Add your comment to start the conversation.