Cebu News

Suspected attackers in Dumanjug: 3 men arrested

The Freeman

CEBU, Philippines – Police yesterday afternoon arrested three persons, two of whom were allegedly found with explosives, suspected to be among the men who shot at the vehicle of Dumanjug Vice Mayor Efren Gica’s running mate after a consultative meeting the other day.

Dexter James Aniñon, 18, the alleged lookout of the group, was arrested past 5 p.m. Friday in a hot pursuit operation in Barangay Masa, Dumanjug, where the attack also happened.

Past 5 a.m. yesterday, Joselito Quirante, 35; and Samuel Villa-gonzalo, 31, were arrested in the house of a certain Nilo Quirante in Barangay Pawa, Dumanjug.

Dumanjug Police Station chief Senior Inspector Arvi Arbuis said Aniñon was arrested after he was identified by witnesses as among the men who shot at the Pajero of Gica’s running mate municipal councilor Rene Asentista.

Early morning yesterday Arbuis received a text message that Joselito Quirante and Samuel Villagonzalo, two more men allegedly involved in the attack, were seen in the house of Nilo Quirante. 

Police went to Barangay Pawa to arrest the two. Quirante did not resist arrest but Villagonzalo allegedly tried to run away. When policemen cornered him Villagonzalo allegedly pulled out a .45 cal. pistol but Arbuis grabbed it and the ensuing struggle sent them rolling down a small slope.

“Kaing nganlan og Samuel ni-resist, nidagan unya pagdagan niya among gi-pacify ako mang giilog gikan sa iyaha ang iyang pusil, ni-resist siya, nidagan siya. Pagka-bunlot nako sa iyaha naligid mi sa bakilid, nagaras tuhod nako siko nagaras pod, hasta sad siya,” Arbuis said.

The police were eventually able to subdue and arrest Villagonzalo.

Arbuis recovered the pistol from the suspect. Police later searched the house of Nilo Quirante and find 14 small packs of suspected shabu, a replica M4 assault rifle, an M203 grenade launcher, a hand grenade, two wigs, a scythe, a weighing scale and drug paraphernalia.

The two, both allegedly known drug personalities with pending cases, were brought to the police station for interrogation but they denied any involvement in the attack.

However, Arbuis said they recovered Villagonzalo’s mobile phone containing a text message warning his contacts to be very careful.

“Naa’y conversation between Amar, Jun and Wilfredo, nga ingon ‘dili pa gyud patyonon gaw nakalakaw na.’ Ayaw mo kompyansa diha gaw nagpabugnaw pa mi,” Arbuis said. Amar, Jun and Wilfredo are believed to be aliases of other men possibly involved in the attack.

Because of those text messages Arbuis requested for a forensic examination of the suspect’s mobile phone to retrieve messages that may have been deleted.

Arbuis said that based on the guns, ammunition and explosives confiscated the suspects must be well-funded and are part of a group that wanted someone from Gica’s convoy dead.

“Kaning mga ingon ani dili na ni sila mga ordinary, kami na gani mga polis di man gani mi ka-afford ani nga bala,” Arbuis said.

He also said that he is not convinced that the attack was staged so Dumanjug will be declared as election hotspot.

“Sa akong kaugalingon assessment di gyud ta mogamit og M203 simbako mapurohan to sila. Ever since sa history, Dumanjug was declared hot spot sa election days,” he added.

Dumanjug police operatives and District Special Weapons and Tactics team personnel responded to the alarm in Barangay Masa, Dumanjug after they were sent a message saying that Gica’s convoy was being massacred.

 “Naa text message ingon nga ‘tabangi mi diri sir kay gimasaker mi,’ upon verification strafing lang. Sa tinood lang exaggerated lang siguro ang pag-text, at the state nga natarantar na siguro ang nag-text,” he said.

The police are still conducting hot pursuit operation against the other seven men said to be involved in the attack. 

Joint Probe

Dumanjug Mayor Nelson Garcia is calling for a joint investigation by the police and the National Bureau of Investigation into the incident.

A formal request is set to be filed next week on the matter. Garcia said forensic experts must also be tapped to thoroughly investigate the incident.

“This could be a move to put the town in the list of election hotspots or to gain sympathy or divert the issue away from the issuance of an arrest warrant against the vice mayor for malversation,” Garcia said in a statement.

He said he listened to Gica’s interview over RMN-dyHP yesterday and the vice mayor’s statements had many inconsistencies.

“Possible ni nga ‘ambush-me’, nganong siya may ambush-on, nga klaro man iyang ingon, twenty minutes after he left nibuto, so if tinuod naa’y ambush dili siya ang target,” said Garcia.

Garcia also asked why the police failed to secure the vehicle for evidence purposes. The vehicle, reportedly riddled with bullet and shrapnel holes, is still being used and seen around the town, he said.

“There should be a thorough investigation, and they should have preserved evidence,” he added.

Garcia said the incident has tainted the image of Dumanjug as a peaceful town and caused undue alarm, adding that whoever orchestrated the incident should be made to answer.  — /BRP (FREEMAN)

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