Ex-NBI chief cleared of slay try charges

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Wednesday, February 12, 2014

MANILA -- Former National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) director Magtanggol Gatdula was spared from charges in connection with the failed assassination attempt on one of the agency's high-ranking officials nearly two years ago.

In a resolution dated January 15, the Department of Justice (DOJ) found no probable cause to file a case in court against Gatdula and a certain Gino Eustaquio in relation to the ambush on NBI Deputy Director Reynaldo Esmeralda on February 21, 2012 at a bridge in Paco, Manila.

Esmeralda was grazed by a bullet from motorcycle-riding gunmen while his brother sustained gunshot wounds.

The incident occurred a month after Gatdula was charged for his alleged role in the kidnapping and extortion of P6 million from Japanese Noriyo Ohara in 2011, leading Justice Secretary Leila de Lima to initially surmise that he may have a hand in the attempt to kill Esmeralda, who recommended the former NBI chief's prosecution.

But the prosecutors rejected this angle as they found Tyrone Ong, currently detained on graft and malversation charges for ghost repairs and maintenance of police armoured vehicles, as the mastermind of the assault.

Ong is a business partner of Cedric Lee, who was accused of mauling and extorting money from actor Vhong Navarro last January 22.

Aside from Ong, set to face attempted murder charges are Perfecto Villanueva aka "Chief" and/or "Sarge Pekto," formerly assigned at the Police Security Protection Group; Ronnie Ong aka "Eboy”; Ramoso Ramos; Alfredo Compoc aka "Jackliner”; gunman Teodoro Abendano aka "Teddy”; Ricky Dacillo, Gerry Farillon, Jose Maglalang Jr. aka "Jun Demonyo”; Jun Monticlaros and Alvin Monticlaros.

The DOJ said Abendano, Villanueva, Raos, Jun and Alvin Monticlaros, Maglalang and Compoc admitted their participation into the crime, which allegedly stemmed from a land dispute.

These men said Ronnie organized the group and actively took part in the assassination plan. It was also Ronnie who allegedly informed Abendano and Ramos of Esmeralda’s location.

Villanueva, for his part, said Ong allotted P600,000 for the ambush and directed him to find a hit man to end Esmeralda’s life as the DOJ concluded that Gatdula did not show "any overt act in pursuance or in furtherance of the conspiracy."

Although Eustaquio gave the money to Villanueva for the purchase of guns, the prosecutors said he was not even aware what the money was for.
Eustaquio served as Ong’s driver.

In a text message, Gatdula's lawyer Abraham Espejo thanked de Lima for being "fair."

He said the resolution was a vindication for Gatdula, who previously denounced insinuations that he may threaten or harm any person just to assert that he never participated in the crime against Ohara.

Gatdula was fired by President Benigno Aquino III over the controversy in January 2012. (Sunnex)

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