Cars used in ambush of Cebu lawyer found

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Thursday, March 20, 2014

CEBU CITY -- The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) Central Visayas named four officials of the Highway Patrol Group (HPG) in Central Visayas as “suspects” in the ambush-slay of lawyer Noel Archival and his two companions.

This came after a joint operation of the NBI and the Cebu City Police Office’s Special Weapons and Tactics (Swat) on Thursday traced the two vehicles that were allegedly used in the shooting to the HPG impounding area in Barangay Lahug in Cebu City.

“The (suspects) will be afforded due process. We will be issuing subpoenas to them so that they can answer,” said NBI Regional Director Max Salvador.


Supt. Romualdo Iglesia, HPG Central Visayas chief; Chief Insp. Eduardo Mara, HPG 7 operations officer; Sr. Insp. Joselito Lerion, and SPO4 Edwin Galan, HPG 7 chief clerk, were linked to the case based on accounts of witnesses and footage from CCTV cameras near the crime scene, among others.

Iglesia, Mara and Lerion are among the 14 police officers who are facing administrative and criminal complaints that Archival had filed before the Office of the Deputy Ombudsman for the Military and Other Law Enforcement Offices (Moleo) in December 2013.

Salvador would not conclude if the four HPG officials had used the impounded vehicles in the ambush-slay of Archival, his aide Candido Miñoza and his driver Alejandro Jayme in Dalaguete town last February 18.

He also could not say what the motive was.

“We are conducting an open investigation to bring out the motives,” Salvador told reporters.

Carrying a search warrant, operatives of the NBI and Swat went to the HPG 7 impounding area Thursday morning to check the vehicles believed to have been used in the ambush.

Suspect in lawyer's ambush

VEHICLES USED IN AMBUSH. Two of the cars said to have been used in the fatal ambush of criminal lawyer Noel Archival and his companions on Feb. 18, 2014 were found in the impounding garage of the Highway Patrol Group in Sudlon, Lahug, Cebu City. One of these cars is the Toyota Vios (above) being checked out by Archival’s brothers Nelson (leftmost) and Nestor (in white polo) and NBI agent Jose Ermie Monsanto (in black shirt). (Amper Campana)

Authorities first opened one vehicle, a red Toyota Vios (GSC 675), and found, among others, a police commemorative plate and a pleading filed by Archival.

The motion for reconsideration filed by Archival’s clients, Catherine Go and Chris Reinz, seeks a 10-day extension to file their counter affidavit.

The HPG 7 filed the criminal complaint of carnapping against Go and Reinz before the Office of the Cebu City Prosecutor last year.

Judge Soliver Peras issued the search warrant after finding “probable and justifiable cause” that the four police officers may have committed murder (violation of Art.248 of the Revised Penal Code).

Peras also ordered the authorities to seize the four vehicles, their documents and return the warrant in 10 days.

The vehicles covered by the warrant are the red Toyota Vios, Toyota Corolla Vios (GSR 995); gray Mitsubishi Strada (ZEZ 932) and another gray Mitsubishi Strada (NVD 549). 

For the Special Investigation Task Group (SITG) Archival, the development is a breakthrough in the investigation, but it doesn’t immediately implicate the police officers to the crime, said Supt. Rodolfo Albotra, a member of the task force.

“We are only in the process of eliminating doubts if this unit is involved or not,” he told reporters.

Cebu Lawyer Noel Archival
Cebu Lawyer Noel Archival (Sun.Star Cebu file photo)

Archival had filed a complaint against Supt. Romualdo Iglesia and Chief Insp. Renny Eguia of HPG 7 and 12 other police officers last December for allegedly submitting a falsified document about a vehicle they had impounded.

Albotra said they have another suspect in mind.

Sun.Star Cebu tried calling Iglesia through his mobile phones on Thursdau but one of the phones was switched off. Calls made to another number were not answered.

Sun.Star Cebu also tried calling the other police officers through their office phone but P02 Rodelio Aresga said the officials left the office at noon.

When interviewed by reporters at the impounding area, Galan, the HPG 7 chief clerk, denied knowing that the vehicles impounded by HPG 7 were used in the ambush. Galan said he is willing to cooperate in the NBI 7 investigation.

In December 2013, Archival charged HPG-7 chief Iglesia and 13 other police officers with administrative and criminal complaints before the Moleo.

They were accused of dishonesty, grave misconduct and falsification of public document for allegedly trying to mislead a court in Cebu City that the license plate of a vehicle they impounded was JZN 100.

Archival said the license plate belonged to a vehicle owned by his client Maria Paz Yu.

HPG 7 operatives impounded Yu’s vehicle because its license plate belonged to a vehicle owned by Kudos Trucking.

But Archival said his client’s vehicle had documents to prove otherwise.

He said a document obtained from the Land Transportation Office 7 showed that the license plate of Kudos Trucking’s vehicle, a Toyota Hi-Ace S Grandia, was not JZN 100 but YET 868.

Salvador, the NBI 7 chief, told reporters that his office is not ruling out that the police officials could be included in the filing of multiple murder and violation of the anti-graft law for allegedly using impounded vehicles.

“This is just another step toward the solution of the ambush-slay of (Atty. Noel) Archival,” said Salvador.

Salvador said that concerned citizens “risked their lives to give information” to help authorities resolve the case.

He said the police commemorative plate and the pleading filed by Archival found inside the Totoya Vios would give investigators a “good lead.”

He said the application for search warrant was “based on truth” and accounts of the two witnesses.

The vehicles will be subjected to a forensic test. Investigators will also visit the crime scene to reenact the shooting. (Sun.Star Cebu)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on March 21, 2014.

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