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President Gloria Arroyo pays respect to slain Lt. Colonel Angel Benitez at their home in Remonville Subdivision, Jaro, Iloilo City. (Rey Baniquet/Malacañang photo)

President Gloria Arroyo pays respect to slain Lt. Colonel Angel Benitez at their home in Remonville Subdivision, Jaro, Iloilo City. (Rey Baniquet/Malacañang photo)

The family of Marine Corporal Angel Abeto – sister Annie Grace, mother Sonia, wife Daisy and uncle Gerry Casandra – talk to the media before meeting the President. (FAA)

The family of Marine Corporal Angel Abeto – sister Annie Grace, mother Sonia, wife Daisy and uncle Gerry Casandra – talk to the media before meeting the President. (FAA)

Benitez’s widow to Gloria: Help our kids’ education

 

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

JUSTICE for the slain soldiers and modernization of AFP equipment were the main messages the bereaved families of two slain soldiers relayed to President Gloria Arroyo yesterday.

 

President Arroyo arrived in Iloilo City from Cebu to pay respect to slain Lt. Colonel Angel Benitez at their home in Remonville Subdivision, Jaro district.

 

Clad in black blouse and pants, the President was met by Benitez’s widow, the former Ma. Elena “Kooky” Antenor-Cruz. The media was barred from covering the meeting inside the Benitez residence.

 

Aside from financial and livelihood assistance, Mrs. Benitez said she asked the President to give justice to her husband’s brutal death in the hands of Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) members.

 

“I asked the President to give justice to my husband because he was brutally killed. Justice is enough for us. They are saying that he died a hero but I lost my husband and the kids lost their papa,” Kooky said.

 

Benitez’s widow said she hopes the government will do its best to eliminate the MILF “for the peace of our country.”

 

Mrs. Benitez said she was concerned with the education of her four children who are still in high school and elementary.

 

“I talked to the President about the education of the children. That’s the most important thing right now. I want them to finish their college education so they will have a good future,” Mrs. Benitzez said, adding Mrs. Arroyo assured them that she will help.

 

“I told her that I don’t want to be assured verbally because with what happened to my husband, the children deserve a better future right now,” she added.  

 

Lt. Col. Benitez and Kooky have four children – Twinkle, 15; Carlo Luis, 13; Vincent Jaime, 11; and Mark Angelo, 9.

 

“The children were happy because the President went here to visit us and pay respect to their father. They were surprised that she came over.”

MODERNIZE THE AFP

The family of Corporal Angelo Abeto of Mandurriao, Iloilo City was also present at the Benitez residence to meet President Arroyo.

 

Corporal Abeto’s wife Daisy, mother Sonia, sister Annie Grace and uncle Gerry Casandra were in tow to see the President.

 

Daisy said her husband’s death should serve as a lesson to the government to immediately respond to soldier’s wounded in the battlefield.

 

Abeto, who was wounded in a skirmish with the MILF last August 11, waited for four hours before he can be airlifted to Cebu for treatment. He died of massive blood loss and was buried Friday last week.

 

Abeto’s plea for help was aired by a giant TV network covering the Mindanao conflict.

 

“I feel bad because it took a long time before he can be flown to the hospital. It’s okay if we lost him as long as he was given immediate attention,” Daisy said.

 

Annie Grace, who is blind, said she asked the President to help her finish her political science course because her slain brother was the only one who supported her studies.

 

Annie Grace is a member of the Philippine track and field Paralympics team.

 

Casandra said his nephew’s death should prod the national government to modernize the AFP assets to facilitate evacuation of wounded soldiers. He also asked the President to eliminate the MILF in an “all out war” lest more families will lose their relatives to the Mindanao conflict.

 

Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez Sr. said the Abetos will receive a house and lot from the Gawad Kalinga project.

 

Gonzalez accompanied the President during the meeting with the Benitez and Abeto families to hear their requests.

 

“All the benefits will be given to the bereaved families. In fact, part of it was already given to them. What is important is that we will pursue the killers of our soldiers,” Gonzalez said.

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Two motives eyed in del Castillo slay;

 

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

PERSONAL grudge and his work as Iloilo provincial fire marshal are two of the possible motives seen by the police in the murder of Supt. Casiano del Castillo in Arevalo, Iloilo City Friday last week.

 

This, even as the Iloilo City Police Office (ICPO) claimed they have identified the triggerman who shot del Castillo five times resulting in his death.

 

Senior Supt. Bartolome Tobias, ICPO director, said witnesses were able to identify the gunman through his picture.

 

Tobias refused to name the suspect although he said the gunman is a native of Iloilo province.

 

The ICPO chief said they looking into del Castillo’s work at the Bureau of Fire Prevention and previous disputes to determine the motive for his assassination.

 

“We are carefully eliminating other motives and we are now focusing on these two angles,” he added.

 

In several radio interviews, the victim’s wife Rose del Castillo told her about his falling out with a colleague although she did not elaborate.

 

Rose said her husband advised them to be careful after receiving death threats days before he was gunned down.

 

Del Castillo was walking to their home at Landheights Subdivision in Arevalo district when two motorcycle persons waylaid him with a caliber .45 pistol. The victim died at the Saviour International Hospital in Mandurriao district.

 

The victim recently exposed several anomalies at the BFP, particularly missing high-powered firearms, repair of fire trucks sans competitive bidding and questionable recruitment of firefighters.

 

Del Castillo traced the alleged anomalies to his predecessor, former provincial fire marshal Edga Gimotea, who also happens to be his wedding godfather.

 

In the middle of exposé, del Castillo criticized Gimotea for allegedly maintaining a lending business inside the BFP regional office in Aduana Street, Iloilo City proper.

 

The word war prompted Gimotea to file perjury cases against del Castillo.

 

Before he was shot last week, del Castillo went to the Iloilo Hall of Justice to file his counter affidavit to the perjury case.

 

Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez Sr. said he also received last August 19 a letter from Gimotea detailing his dispute with del Castillo.

 

Gonzalez said he is willing to order the National Bureau of Investigation to probe del Castillo’s death if the latter’s family seeks his help.

 

The Bureau of Fire Prevention has condemned del Castillo’s murder.

 

Fire Sr. Inspector Bartolome Billaran said they were shocked with the incident even as they assured to help their fallen colleague’s family.

HIRED KILLERS

Tobias said it is possible that the suspects in del Castillo’s death are hired killers.

 

This piece of information jived with the investigation of the Jaro police that paid assassins gunned down Edgar Pedrajas a week ago. Pedrajas is a relative of a suspected drug lord allegedly operating in Iloilo City.

 

According to the Jaro police, the gunmen stayed and planned the killing in a house in Iloilo City.

 

Tobias said they also received reports of the purported team of assassins in Iloilo City although he allayed fears raised on their presence and the series of killings.

 

The AFP also released reports that sparrow hit men of the New People’s Army were spotted in Arevalo plaza, not far from the area where del Castillo was killed.

 

Tobias said the whole ICPO force is on alert against any incursions by the assassins spotted in the city.

 

Since he assumed the ICPO helm, Tobias was confronted by a series of killings including the case of American Daniel John Chabra, Pedrajas and del Castillo.

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