‘Vigilantes’ nabbed in barangay outpost

Rey Galupo - The Philippine Star
�Vigilantes� nabbed in barangay outpost
TOKHANG: Screen grab from a STAR exclusive video shows a member of a police raiding team breaking down the door of a baran­gay outpost used by suspected members of a vigilante group in Tondo, Manila the other day. Top photo shows one of the suspects being handcuffed during the raid.

MANILA, Philippines - Tasked to maintain peace and order in their community, three barangay peacekeepers instead allegedly used the drug war to embark on a vigilante killing spree.

Police raided on Wednesday afternoon a barangay outpost in Tondo, Manila and arrested three members who admitted their involvement in the disappearance and killing of drug suspects.

The police identified the suspects as Manuel Murillo, 33; Marco Morallos, 33, and Alfredo Alejan, 42.

They belong to the Confederate Sentinel Group (CSG), whose members are reportedly part of the barangay peacekeeping action teams.

It was the first time that suspects in drug-related vigilante killings were unmasked and arrested.

Their arrest stemmed from the complaint of Christina Saladaga, who accused the three of forcibly taking last Jan. 2 her 16-year-old son Charlie whom the suspects accused of being a drug peddler and robber.

The group’s leader Ricardo Villamonte, whom Saladaga confronted last Tuesday, told her that Charlie was probably executed by policemen.

“He said my son was salvaged by policemen but we know they were the ones involved,” Saladaga said, fighting back tears. This prompted her to seek the help of policemen.

One of the suspects, Murillo, admitted they killed the teenager on orders of “Kumander Maning,” their name for Villamonte.

Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa said the suspects were among the vigilantes who rode on the government’s war on drugs.

“The people thought they would not be discovered and the police would be blamed,” Dela Rosa said.

Screenshot shows the three suspected vigilantes behind bars after their arrest in Tondo, Manila.

He made the conclusion after investigators found out the suspects were involved in three other vigilante killings of suspected criminals last year.

The victims were Rene Desierto who was killed in November; Danilo Penalosa in October and Oliver Pableo last September.

The arrest of the suspects dispelled accusations that the vigilante killings, which fall under the category deaths under investigation (DUI), were sanctioned by the state.

“It’s very clear as far as these killings are concerned, which are included in DUI cases, were not done by the police,” he said.

Chief Supt. Joel Napoleon Coronel, Manila Police District director, said the CSG was once accredited by the MPD Police Community Relations Group.

However, the police became suspicious when they received reports that the group was involved in several summary executions in Tondo.

“They are mostly targeting other rival groups,” Coronel said, referring to other criminal syndicates operating in Manila.

Aside from murder, the suspects are also facing cases of illegalpossession of firearms and ammunition.

MPD raid

Combined elements of the Manila Police District intelligence operations unit, special reaction unit, homicide section and MPD-Station 1 raided a unit owned by Murillo at building 22 Aroma Temporary Housing along Road 10 in Barangay 105.

The parents of Saladaga, who was killed last New Year’s Day, pointed to Murillo as one of the persons who picked up their son at the corner of Capulong street and Road 10.

Saladaga’s body was found the following day stuffed in a sack floating off the breakwater of Isla Puting Bato in Tondo. The victim had a gunshot wound in the face.

In a sworn statement, Saladaga’s younger sister said that Murillo, Morallos and another unidentified person took her brother.

The victim’s relatives admitted that Saladaga earned money by tapping illegal electrical connection in the neighborhood and committing petty crimes.

Murillo initially denied involvement in the killing of Saladaga, but he later told investigators that he knew what happened and identified Morallos as the one who shot the victim.

Murillo later accompanied the team that raided the nearby house of Morallos in a maze-like alley and arrested him. Police nabbed Morallos and recovered a 9 mm pistol inside the house.

Morallos then pointed to their hideout, a makeshift house along Road 10, where they had hidden their weapons.

Chief Insp. Rozalino Ibay led the police team that arrested the third suspect Alejan. The policemen also recovered bullets in his pocket.

The policemen used a battering ram to gain entry to the hideout and found several weapons, including a .38 caliber revolver, two homemade shotguns, assorted bullets and a jungle bolo.

An organizational chart of the so-called Confederate Sentinels Group, with photographs of the officers and members, was conspicuously displayed at the hideout.

The raiding team also discovered a secret passage at the back of the house leading towards the center of the squatter’s area.

Murillo told The STAR that they belong to the group that was responsible for extortion activities victimizing truck drivers along R-10 and they were also behind the disappearance of several drug personalities in the area.

He said they were taking orders from Barangay 105 kagawad Michael Sibucao, alias Boss Michael; Villamonte alias Kumander and his brother-in-law alias Onic.

Murillo told the police they cased subjects to be “operated,” planning and designation of their hit man.

He also admitted that they harassed Saladaga’s family and threatened them “if they do not leave the community.”

“No one is willing to talk about us because they know that they could be in danger,” he told The STAR.

Murillo added that they were behind some of the killings in Tondo that were attributed to extrajudicial killings by the police.

Ibay said the arrest of the suspects and the exposure of the group “practically solved most of the deaths under investigations that were mostly attributed to the police in the area.”

The police launched another operation to arrest the remaining members of the group.

Insp. Noli de Castro said charges of murder, grave threat and illegal possession of firearms and ammunitions would be filed against the suspects.

Meanwhile, another alleged drug pusher was killed yesterday by suspected vigilantes riding tandem on a motorcycle in Barangay Maronquillo, San Rafael, Bulacan.

Senior Supt. Romeo Caramat, acting director of the Bulacan police, said Roy Venturina, 39, of Barangay Maronquillo was shot several times in the body.

Police said the victim was standing in front of a feed mill owned by his brother when the suspects shot him and fled on board their motorcycle.

Caramat said the victim was a well-known drug pusher operating in San Rafael town and included in the police list of suspected drug dealers in Bulacan. – With Emmanuel Tupas, Ric Sapnu


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