Cebu News

‘Habal’ driver tagged in pastor’s slay yields

Katherine R. Oyson - The Freeman

CEBU, Philippines -  A man who allegedly drove Pastor Crisostomo Maternal Jr.’s gunman surrendered to the police on Wednesday after the first suspect was arrested and presented to Cebu City Mayor-elect Tomas Osmeña a day earlier.

Benjie dela Cerna, 29, a resident of Barangay Sapangdaku, said that upon the advice of his father, he decided to turn himself in to the City Intelligence Branch to clear his name. His parents grew worried after he was tagged as the one who drove the motorcycle used by the gunman at the time of the killing.

“Driver ra ko mam (I just drove),” dela Cerna, a “habal-habal” driver, told The FREEMAN in an interview after his surrender to Deputy Senior Inspector Jovito Labra.

Before the pastor’s shooting last Sunday in Bonbon, a mountainous barangay of Cebu City, a man allegedly hired dela Cerna and asked to be transported somewhere.

Dela Cerna said they were not able to agree on the fare at the outset as the passenger only told him, “Ako la’y bahala nimo (I’ll pay you a good price).” Eventually, he drove the man.

Dela Cerna did not give a clear answer when he was asked if he saw the man shoot the pastor. 

Chief Inspector Michael Anthony Bastes, CIB chief, said dela Cerna was identified by the police after a piece of a motorcycle’s rear mudguard was left in the crime scene with the motorcycle’s plate number.

A check with the Land Transportation Office revealed that the motorcycle was registered to dela Cerna’s father, Felipe, a barangay tanod in Sapangdaku, which is the adjacent barangay to Bonbon.

Felipe said their son confessed about a certain person who had killed someone that night but he insisted that Benjie had no knowledge that his passenger was about to kill a person.

Senior Inspector ElisandroQuijano, chief of the Homicide Section of the Cebu City Police Office, said that despite his surrender, murder charges will still be prepared against dela Cerna, along with the gunman and Garry Daclan, 46, the first suspect who earlier fell to authorities.

Daclan yesterday claimed to be the just a “middleman” in the killing of Maternal, contrary to reports pinning him as the mastermind.

He said he was just hired by a certain Ramil Bonhanoy, an inmate at the National Bilibid Prison, to hire someone who will kill the pastor.

Daclan said when he contacted the gunman, they agreed that the latter would be paid P10,000 initially. He added that if the job is done, the gunman would get another P20,000.

Daclan said he gave the money to the gunman near a bank at the corner of V. Rama and M. Velez Streets. They then parted ways.

He maintained thatapart from looking for a hitman and giving him the payment, he had no further participation in the crime.

Bastes said they have already identified the killer and vowed to make arrests in connection with the pastor’s death.

 “As of now, kaila na man ta sa gunman. Tan-aw nako naa pa na siya sa atong area sa Cebu City or sa province, but we’ll make intelligence gathering information so that ato siyangmadakop and we’ll make also a series of arrests,” Bastes said.

Before he was gunned down, Maternal was a known anti-drug crusader and had been receiving death threats since 2014. He was an active member of the Community Investigative Support, an anti-crime volunteer group.

Police earlier said the Brigada Eskwela in Barangay Bonbon on Sunday may have been mistaken for a drug raid by the culprits because of the presence of the members of the Army. (FREEMAN)



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