‘All I did was hug my father’: Slain Calbayog mayor’s son denies firing at cops

Manila (AdChoiceTV News) — Ronald Mark Aquino, son of slain Calbayog City Mayor Ronaldo Aquino, cried foul over the filing of two counts of murder against him for the deaths of police officers involved in the alleged ambush of his father in March.

At a Senate hearing on the mayor’s killing on Wednesday, Samar Police Provincial Office head PCol. Oliver Cinco said the complaint was filed at the Calbayog City Prosecutor’s Office on April 8, exactly a month after the crime.

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The younger Aquino is accused of fatally shooting PSSg. Romeo Laoyon and PCpt. Joselito Tabada, chief of the provincial drug enforcement unit. His co-accused are PCpl. Ramil Rosales, his father’s security detail, and several John Does.

Laoyon sustained 17 gunshot wounds while Tabada died of a gunshot wound on his trunk, Cinco said, citing results of the autopsy. He said witnesses’ sworn statements and other evidence pointed to Aquino.

The mayor’s son belied the police’s claims. He explained that the crime scene at Labuyao Bridge, Barangay Lonoy in Calbayog was about a 15-minute drive from the resort where he was. His father was also headed there to attend his birthday celebration.

Aquino tearfully recalled rushing to the area upon learning of the “ambush.”

Naabutan ko po na walang buhay na siya at tadtad po ng bala at wala po akong ibang ginawa kundi yakapin ang tatay ko,” Aquino said. “Tahimik na po at wala na pong nangyaring putukan at marami na pong sibilyan.”

[Translation: I saw him lifeless and his body riddled with bullets and I did nothing else but hug my father. It was quiet already, no more shots fired, and there were many civilians.]

Kami na nga po ang pinatayan ng ama, ako pa po ang kinasuhan,” he added.

[Translation: Our father was killed and yet I am being sued.]

PNP vs. NBI findings

PCpl. Edcil Omega maintained he saw Aquino and Rosales shoot at the policemen. He said he was somewhere below the bridge, and that he decided not to engage due to his disadvantageous position.

But according to the National Bureau of Investigation, there was no footage showing Aquino around the vicinity during the firefight which happened at around 5:30 p.m. Jerry Abiera, regional director of the NBI-Eastern Visayas, said that even at 5:42 p.m., there were no signs of Aquino’s vehicle in the dash cam footage of a bus that passed the bridge.

The NBI’s Samar district office is ready to file multiple murder and frustrated murder complaints against six police officers and several other individuals – the slain mayor’s son not included – according to the findings presented by Abiera.

The NBI is convinced it was an ambush, while the police call it a shootout. Citing testimonies of several witnesses, Abiera said the suspects – wearing long sleeves, bulletproof vests, and bonnets – fired at the mayor’s van “alternately and systematically.”

“When a group would run out of ammunition, they would retreat to reload while the other group would take their turn to fire at will,” Abiera said.

While the police seek murder charges against Aquino, they only filed homicide and frustrated homicide complaints against three police officers: PLtCol. Harry Sucayre, PMaj. Shyrile Tan, and PLt. Julio Armeza.

In explaining the rationale for the homicide complaint, Cinco said: “As culled from the statements of IMEG (Integrity Monitoring and Enforcement Group), they were first fired upon by the group of Aquino and that they only returned fire in the process.”

Politically motivated?

Late Calbayog Mayor Ronaldo Aquino

The late mayor’s family believes the patriarch had long been targeted by enemies in politics.

Itong pangyayari sa tatay ko ay hindi po ordinary kundi meron pong taong nag-utos dito at malamang po ay konektado sa pulitika,” Aquino said.

[Translation: What happened to my father is not ordinary. Someone ordered it and it’s probably connected to politics.]

He then presented a witness, PMSg. Jose Jay Senario, who was assigned in Calbayog City during the incident. Senario recalled receiving orders from Tabada in 2018 to apply for a search warrant and surveil the mayor’s residence.

“Two options kasi yung ibinigay sa akin (I was given two options). It’s either to apply [for a search] warrant or iambush na lang si (or just ambush) Mayor Aquino,” Senario said.

He added that a political rival of Mayor Aquino also asked him to come up with an affidavit implicating the local chief executive as coddler of a drug-linked security detail. Both the Philippine National Police and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency said the mayor was not involved in illegal drugs.

Senario did not finish his Senate testimony after being advised by Senator Panfilo “Ping” Lacson that he should have a lawyer with him. He said Senario’s claims showed efforts to “lay the groundwork” in getting rid of the mayor.

Matagal talaga yung pagpaplano na nag-culminate lang diyan sa tulay (The plan took a long time and it culminated on the bridge),” Lacson, a former Philippine National Police chief, said.

Senator Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa, chair of the Senate Committee on Public Order and Dangerous Drugs – and a former top cop himself – said he will call for another hearing. Senario will be invited, as well as the politician and police officers he was accusing of targeting the mayor.

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/ART — AdChoiceTV News

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