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Smoking gun vs EJK?

For so long, the alleged involvement of the government in the killings of suspected drug personalities have remained allegations. There was never any concrete evidence that would back up that claim.

But that might now change with the botched ambush of an Iloilo City policeman who is allegedly an active pusher of shabu last Tuesday afternoon.

PO1 Dorben Acap was driving home after his regular tour of duty ended at 4 p.m. on June 26 when gunmen riding a motorcycle opened fire at him at close range. Luckily, Acap had sensed something was going to happen and ducked inside his car as a hail of bullets smashed into it.

He was hit in the left arm. He managed to stop his car in the middle of the road. His attackers stopped their motorcycle about 5 meters away, apparently preparing to finish him off.

Acap, who is left-handed, quickly got his firearm and took aim with his right hand. He fired seven rounds at his attackers who could not see him because of the heavy tint on his windshield. He saw one of his attackers fall to the ground, wounded.

The driver of the motorcycle helped his wounded companion get up from the pavement, got him to sit on the bike and fled.

That wounded gunman was later identified as PO2 Melvin Mocoro, who was last known to be assigned in the ARMM Regional Mobile Battalion of the Philippine National Police. He was supposedly on sick leave from his unit.

Mocoro was hit in the chest and leg when Acap returned fire. He was taken to the Western Visayas Medical Center in Mandurriao, Iloilo City for treatment. At first, police investigators told media Mocoro was wounded in a gunfight in Pakiad, Oton. He was taken to the hospital by a tricycle driver who was stopped by his companion near the Circumferential Road near Mandurriao.

However, Acap, without hesitation, identified Mocoro as the gunman he had hit in the exchange of gunfire when policemen from the Arevalo police station where the ambush took place showed him his picture. Mocoro wasn’t wearing a helmet when the shooting happened, and Acap said he got a good look at him when he fired back.

“It’s definitely him,” Acap said, adding that as a guard assigned to the gate of Camp Delgado, he frequently saw Mocoro get in and out of the regional PNP headquarters in Fort San Pedro. “I didn’t know his name, but I know him to be a policeman.”

Mocoro was placed under hospital arrest by the Arevalo PNP following this positive identification made by Acap.

It’s not known who was the other gunman who was driving the motorcycle, but this identification of Mocoro suddenly gave a face and name to the apparent rub-out activities targetting drug personalities.

On June 24, masked gunmen barged into the cottage occupied by Remia Prevendido-Gregori, barangay captain of Bakhaw, Mandurriao and peppered her with bullets. She died on the spot along with a female helper who was nearby. Her husband, Bonifacio Gregori Sr., was wounded. Mrs. Gregori was the sister of slain drug group leader Richard Prevendido.

The following morning, uniformed policemen stormed several homes owned by the Odict family and their known associates in Tanza Esperanza armed with search warrants for loose firearms. Andrew Altas, a brother in law of Melvin “Dragon” Odicta who was also gunned down in August 2016, was killed after he allegedly fired at the troops, forcing them to return fire. Noel “Nene” Odicta, whose third and last term as barangay captain ends June 30, was arrested and charged for allegedly keeping an unlicensed cal. 45 pistol and a hand grenade in his house.

Then came the ambush on Acap on Tuesday afternoon.

The PDEA and police said Acap was considered a high value target for actively peddling shabu in Iloilo City and southern towns of Iloilo province.

Acap was demoted two years ago after he was caught being in a house raided by the PDEA where illegal drugs were being sold.

Acap has denied his involvement in illegal drugs.

This series of violent attacks on drug personalities has already caused panic and fear among other suspected drug personalities. One of them is Keith “Dabing” Espinosa, wife of alleged Odicta drug group lieutenant Jesus “Jing Jing” Espinosa, Jr. She is now believed to be in hiding even while her supporters hold prayer vigils every night outside her residence to stop any police raid.

Mocoro remains under hospital arrest. The City Prosecutor’s Office conducted an inquest into the frustrated murder charges filed by police against him at his hospital bedside. He remains tight-lipped about the whole episode and refused to answer questions from police investigators.

The PNP Regional Office No. 6 has also issued a statement that Mocorro could not be linked to the murder of Gregori in San Joaquin last June 24. The police is apparently trying to connect her murder to rivalries between drug groups in the city.

But there is growing evidence now that Mocorro was one of the gunmen who tried to kill Acap, and suspicion is building up as well he could have been part of the group that killed Gregori.

He could be the missing link that would finally establish the involvement of the government, or at least of the police, in the spate of extra judicial killings involving drug personalities in the country.

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Questions raised on ‘delay’ in prison sentence execution vs Jing Jing Espinosa

A prominent lawyer in Iloilo City has expressed surprise, and disbelief, that a prison sentence imposed on Jesus “Jing Jing” Espinosa Jr. was not immediately carried out after the Regional Trial Court Branch 31 received a Resolution from the Supreme Court upholding his conviction for frustrated murder four years ago.

Atty. Eldrid Antiquera, a former Iloilo City Councilor and legal assistant of the late Raul M. Gonzalez when he served as Justice Secretary, told Aksyon Radyo Iloilo that the circumstances that caused the delayed execution of the jail sentence should be investigated to make sure there was no hanky-panky.

“The Supreme Court takes these things seriously, because such negligence can thwart the course of justice,” Antiquera said. In many cases, court officials found to have been remiss in their duties have been suspended for similar omissions, he added.

Rosenia Jover, OIC Clerk of Court of Branch 31, issued a notice of hearing to both the prosecution and the defense lawyer, as well as the bail bond companies, on Tuesday, October 4, 2016, to tackle the revocation of the P200,000 bail bond for Espinosa.

Another court official told me that the revocation of the bail bond is the first step toward the issuance of a warrant of arrest to put Espinosa behind bars and begin serving his prison sentence.

notice-of-hearing

NOTICE OF HEARING ON THE REVOCATION OF BAIL BOND SET FOR OCT. 4, 2016. (Photo credit: RMN 774)

Espinosa, also known as “Bondying” in the order of battle of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA), was found guilty as an accomplice for frustrated murder when he and two others shot and wounded Mark Serra in Barangay Monica on November 24, 2002.

Espinosa was able to submit a paraffin test report showing that he was negative for nitrate powder burns during his trial and was meted out a lighter sentence of six months and one day of prision correccional as minimum to eight years and one day as prision mayor as maximum.

He was convicted way back in 2006 by then RTC Branch 31 judge Rene Hortillo.

Espinosa appealed his conviction to the Court of Appeals. In a decision handed down on July 14, 2008, the Court of Appeals Eighteenth Division upheld the trial court’s ruling.

The case was elevated to the Supreme Court on a petition for review on certiorari. But the Supreme Court, in a Resolution dated May 30, 2011, denied the appeal for failure of petitioner Espinosa to substantially show any reversible error in the C.A. decision. The decision was declared “final and executory” by the Supreme Court on October 24, 2011.

Following judicial procedure, the case records were remanded to the Court of Appeals which in turn sent back the files to the lower court, Branch 31.

The markings on the documents show that RTC Branch 31 received the by registered mail on September 7, 2012. At the time, RTC Branch 31, along with all other courts of the RTC and Iloilo City MTC, were housed at the De Paul College campus in Jaro district as the Hall of Justice was undergoing refurbishing and repair.

The records affirming the conviction virtually vanished then, and it was only last July this year, during the conduct of an inventory of cases, that the same was noticed. Or so OIC Clerk of Court Rosenia Jover said.

For Antiquera, that explanation should not be accepted “hook, line and sinker.”

This discovery was made public only last Monday in The Daily Guardian and this blog, along with interviews with Aksyon Radyo Iloilo anchorman John Paul Tia and RMN 774 anchors Novie Guazo and Regan Arlos.

Indeed, the excuse is too shallow to be accepted. Almost every year, trial courts are mandated by the Supreme Court to conduct inventories of cases. This means RTC Branch 31 should have discovered this oversight in 2013 or 2014.

But why did it take four years?

drilon-with-kap-dabing

Monica barangay captain Keith “Dabing” Espinosa, wife of Jing Jing Espinosa, poses with the most powerful man in Iloilo City — Senator Franklin Drilon.

There are speculations that somebody powerful may have intervened to “bury” the case records, and it was only after President Rodrigo Duterte came to power that it was resurrected.

Kap dabing with drilon

VIP treatment palagi si Kap Dabing Espinosa na asawa ni Jing Jing Espinosa sa mga okasyon ni Drilon.

 

Jing Jing Espinosa faces ‘delayed’ prison sentence

 

A conviction for frustrated murder on Monica barangay kagawad Jesus “Jing Jing” Espinosa Jr. had long been affirmed by both the Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court, but because of the topsy-turvy files at the temporary quarters of Regional Trial Court Branch 31 in September 2012 at the De Paul College campus, the case records were buried out of sight.

And it was only during an inventory of cases conducted by RTC Branch 31 that court personnel discovered the case folders remanded by the Court of Appeals for implementation of the decision handed down by then RTC Branch 31 presiding judge Rene Hortillo imposing a prison term for Espinosa.jing jing gets ready to rule iloilo city

“By the time we found the case folders containing the decision of the Court of Appeals and order from the Supreme Court affirming the conviction, Judge Hortillo had already retired, and we could not proceed with the case,” a court official told The Daily Guardian over the weekend.

The official said it was only recently that RTC Branch 34 Presiding Judge Yolanda Panaguiton-Gavino was designated as acting Presiding Judge, and she is expected to report to her assigned sala in Branch 31 today, Monday, September 26, 2016.

“This case will be among the first to be taken up with Judge Gavino,” the official said.

She added that under court rules and procedures, Judge Gavino will issue a warrant of arrest against Espinosa and his companion, Robinito “Bord” Malaga, for them to be put to jail and serve the penalty for frustrated murder.

the-daily-guardian-front-page-sept-26-2016Espinosa and Malaga were found guilty for shooting and seriously wounding Mark Serra, a resident of Barangay Monica, at around midnight on November 24, 2002. A third accused, Cris Rudy Balidiong, died during the pendency of the case.

Espinosa was meted a prison term of six months and one day of prision correccional as minimum to eight years and one day of prison mayor as maximum. Malaga was sentenced to a more severe prison term of eight years and one day of prision mayor as minimum to 14 years, 8 months and one day of reclusion temporal as maximum.

Case records show that Serra was walking towards home from a dance hall in Barangay Concepcion that night when he passed by a foot walk where he saw Balidiong, Espinosa and Malaga standing on both sides.

Just as Serra passed by the three, Balidiong just shot him without provocation.

Although wounded, Serra was able to run away, during which time he saw Espinosa and Malaga emerging from the shadows with hand guns and firing at him but missed.

Both Espinosa and Malaga gave chase, their guns firing. Serra was hit on the left shoulder and right side of his back, court records show.

It was only when Serra reached the house of his first cousin that his attackers fled.

Serra was rushed to the Iloilo Mission Hospital where he had to undergo an operation to save his life.

In convicting Espinosa and Malaga, then RTC Branch 31 Presiding Judge Hortillo said there was no way Serra could not have identified his attackers, as he lived in the barangay, and the area where the attack took place was lighted.

In his decision dated June 20, 2005, Hortillo swept aside the defense of denial put up by the accused and pronounced them guilty of frustrated murder.

However, Espinosa filed a motion for reconsideration on the ground that the trial court failed to give weight to the PNP Crime Laboratory report showing that he was negative for powder burns.

In an amended order, Hortillo reduced the penalty for Espinosa as an accomplice in the crime.

Espinosa filed an appeal before the Court of Appeals which upheld the ruling of Hortillo on July 14, 2008. He then filed a petition for review with the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court denied the appeal on May 30, 2011. An entry of judgment declaring the decision final and executory was made on October 24, 2011.

The markings on the case records show that these were sent by registered mail by the Court of Appeals on August 23, 2012 to RTC Branch 31 which had by then moved to its temporary sala at the De Paul College campus.

The Department of Public Works and Highways declared the Hall of Justice unsafe for occupancy and undertook refurbishing works to improve the structural integrity of the building.

The case records were marked “Received” by RTC Branch 31 on September 7, 2012.

The records also indicate that Espinosa’s counsel at the time, the late Atty. Felipe Macahilig, received a copy of the decisions at around the same time.

But the chaotic condition of the files at the temporary Hall of Justice led to the misplacement of the Court of Appeals and Supreme Court records.

During the whole month of July this year, RTC Branch 31 personnel conducted an inventory of cases along with the rest of the judiciary and it was only then that the oversight on the enforcement of the decision was discovered.

All the courts and other agencies that held office at the Hall of Justice were ordered to evacuate from the Hall of Justice on February 25, 2012 after a strong earthquake caused cracks on its walls and floors.

This is the second prison sentence to be imposed on Espinosa.

In 1995, he was also convicted for the murder of a deaf-mute in Barangay Monica. He was sentence to serve an indeterminate sentence of 10 years and one day as minimum to 17 years and four months as maximum.

He was released from the Bilibid prison after serving the minimum prison sentence.

 

 

Reckless endangerment?

I have long been cautioned by family and friends about dwelling into “dangerous issues” like corruption, illegal drugs and crime in Iloilo City. The concern is valid. There is a history of violence against media people who bravely report stories, and make commentaries, about them. In fact, law enforcement authorities have issued advisories that “clear and present threats” have existed against me specifically. Why push the issue? I am always asked.

My answer has always been the same. If I don’t expose these stories, then nobody will. These criminals (to include public officials engaged in graft) will feel free to do as they please, and the situation can only turn from bad to worse. To my mind, my personal efforts might seem puny, and futile, against the rising power of corruption and organized crime in Iloilo City. But at the moment, it’s the only serious effort to stem the tide.

I feel bad that many agencies mandated with stopping corruption and crime are failing at their jobs. The Commission on Audit and the Ombudsman have moved at a snail’s pace in investigating complaints against corruption. It is frustrating. As I wrote a top COA official recently, lives have been put at risk for the sake of exposing corruption, and yet the agency isn’t giving the issues the urgency that these deserve. The Ombudsman is moving quicker and faster than during the time of Tanodbayan Merceditas Gutierrez, but it still takes too long for cases to be resolved. One needs to be persistent in doing follow up work on these complaints to prod them to action.

The Philippine National Police is losing the war against crime. In Iloilo City, several policemen have been killed, or wounded, in drug-related violence. Unfortunately, no suspects have been identified. No prosecution of cases has been carried out. It definitely does not create public confidence to see the PNP unable to pin down even those who kill or wound uniformed men and women. If cop killers can get away with murder, then it follows that killers of ordinary people will find an easier time eluding the wheels of justice.

My commentaries won’t be able to stop corruption, illegal drugs and murder. But I can’t give up on trying to awaken those officials who might just be able to restore decency and a sense of justice to our society. I can’t stop writing to inform our people about the ugly things that are taking place in the hope that they, too, will convey a message of collective anger over the situation.

 

Violence erupts in Iloilo City waterfront

Violence erupts in Iloilo City waterfront

Unidentified gunmen opened fire with AK-47 assault rifles at the house of Greg Espinosa at around 4:30 a.m. Saturday and wounded two persons, one of them an off-duty policeman.
The crime took place less than 100 meters from a police detachment. Strangely, the policemen didn’t respond to the strafing until an emergency ambulance crew informed them that two people were badly hit in the area.

Mabilog bodyguard arrested for murder

A notorious criminal who frequently served as bodyguard of Iloilo City mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog during his visits to Barangay Monica was arrested by police recently for the crime of murder.
The suspect, Benjamin Espinosa, is the right-hand man of Jing Jing Espinosa. He is charged for the murder of trisikad driver Jimmy Bais in the victim’s home in Barangay Monica in September 2012.
Espinosa is now detained without bail.
Benjie Espinosa is also accused along with Jing Jing for the shooting of their uncles, Pascual “Toto” Espinosa III, Leo Espinosa and Sergio “Kap Boy” Espinosa three years ago.

Jing Jing Espinosa: “Vote straight T-M-E”

The cover photo of Jing Jing Espinosa’s wall displays the team poster of the Trenas-Mabilog-Espinosa ticket. He is the number one supporter and campaign funder of the Team Palagyo.