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Businessman denies involvement in Rojas slay

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

THE alleged mastermind of the assassination of Vice Mayor Ramon Rojas of Ajuy, Iloilo denied any involvement in the crime.

Businessman Vicente “Etik” Espinosa also denied meeting Dennis Cartagena, one of the gunmen in the killing, before and after Rojas was shot to death on May 11, 2008.

Espinosa, a cousin of Rojas, made the denials in his counter affidavit submitted to the Department of Justice (DoJ) panel investigating Cartagena’s extrajudicial confession.

Cartagena claimed Espinosa gave him and Edgar Cordero P8,000 for their “allowance and surveillance expenses” sometime in April 2008. 

Cartagena also claimed that around 7am of May 23, 2008, a day after Rojas was shot dead, they received P50,000 from Espinosa at his house in Ledesco Village, LaPaz, Iloilo City.

After buying ferry tickets for Bacolod City, they returned to Espinosa’s house to get P100,000, Cartagena said.

Espinosa said he never met Cartagena nor did he employ the latter as one of his bodyguards.

The businessman said he was in Metro Manila on May 21, 2008. He returned to Ajuy May 22 upon learning that his cousin was killed.

Espinosa said he went home to Ledesco Village 4pm of May 23, thus there was no chance for him and Cartagena to meet as the latter claimed in his affidavit.

Espinosa said he has no motive to order the death of his cousin because they did not run against each other in the 2007 local elections.

Espinosa’s brother, Ramon Espinosa, ran against Rojas but lost. The Espinosas filed an electoral protest which is still pending with the Regional Trial Court Branch 66 (RTC) in Barotac Viejo.

The DoJ panel gave Rojas family 10 days to submit their reply to Espinosa’s counter affidavit.

Edeljulio Romero, a member of Espinosa’s legal team, earlier said Cartagena’s extrajudicial confession extracted last September 2008 contradicted his not guilty plea before the RTC in February 2009.

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By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

BUSINESSMAN Vicente Espinosa has until next month to submit his answer to the allegations of Dennis Cartagena that the former ordered the murder of vice mayor Ramon Rojas of Ajuy, Iloilo last May 22, 2009.

The three-man panel formed by the Department of Justice (DoJ) to look into Cartagena’s claims ordered Espinosa to submit his counter-affidavit on or before July 6, said Atty. Edeljulio Romero, one of Espinosa’s counsels.

The order was issued during the preliminary hearing conducted by the DoJ panel composed of Senior State Prosecutors Edwin Dayog, Nolibien Quiambao and Romeo Galvez at the Hall of Justice Monday afternoon.

Cartagena, guarded by heavily armed police and jailguards of the Iloilo Rehabilitation Center (IRC), attended the hearing at the Iloilo Provincial Prosecutor’s Office.

Espinosa was also present while Archie Rojas, Board Member Jett Rojas and Ajuy Mayor Juancho Alvarez represented the slain vice mayor.

Ajuy police chief Ariel Artillero was also in attendance.

During the hearing, Cartagena reaffirmed his extra-judicial confession detailing Espinosa’s alleged involvement in the case. 

Romero said he pointed out to the DoJ panel that Cartagena was not appraised of the fact that his own confession also incriminates him in the Rojas slay case.

“Apparently, those who extracted his confession did not inform Cartagena that he will be involved in the crime basing on his own statements,” Romero said.

In his affidavit, Cartagena said Espinosa hired him and Edgar Cordero to kill Rojas in the town proper of Ajuy last May 22, 2008.

Aside from Espinosa, Cartagena also tagged Lindsey Buenavista to the murder.

Cartagena said he was a former bodyguard of Espinosa from April to May 2007 elections along with Buenvista, Rey Peña and a certain Rey.

Right after the May 2007 elections, Cartagena said Espinosa has been plotting to kill Rojas.

The plot was finalized April 2008 when Buenavista presented Cartagena to Espinosa at the latter’s house in Brgy. Lanjagan.

“We met Vicente ‘Etik’ Espinosa and told me and Buenavista that we will kill vice mayor Ramon Rojas and he gave us P8,000 for our allowance and surveillance expenses,” Cartagena said.

For several days, Cartagena and Cordero monitored Rojas’s movements using a black Honda XRM motorcycle owned by a certain Pastor Condino of Banate, Iloilo.

The hit happened around 5:30am of May 22 while Rojas was jogging on the highway at Brgy. Central.

The following day, May 23 at around 7am, Buenavista brought Cartagena and Cordero to Espinosa’s house at Ledesco Village, LaPaz, Iloilo to get P50,000.

Cartagena and Cordero fled to Butuan City where the latter was allegedly shot to death by Buenavista and a certain Joe Bajadi.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

THE family of the slain Vice Mayor Ramon Rojas of Ajuy, Iloilo fears that the delay in the resolution of the case also endangers the life of the prime suspect-turned-witness in the case.

Iloilo 5th district board member Jett Rojas said they are appealing to the Department of Justice to expedite the resolution of the petition for review they filed with the department relative to the assassination of the vice mayor May this year.

Rojas said each day of delay in resolving their petition increases the risk in the life of Dennis Cartagena, one of the suspected gunmen of the vice mayor who tagged businessman Vicente Espinosa as the alleged brains of the assassination.

Cartagena was arrested September in Butuan City after his fellow suspect Edgar Cordero was assassinated.

The Rojas family filed the petition for review with the DOJ after the Iloilo Provincial Prosecutor’s Office (IPPO) junked the murder charges against Espinosa and Lindsey Buenavista for lack of evidence.

Only Cartagena and Cordero were made to face the charges before the Regional Trial Court, according to the IPPO resolution.

The IPPO, however, said Espinosa and Buenavista can be included in the charge sheet if new evidence can establish their involvement in the case.

Buenavista and a certain Jose Bajadi are the prime suspects in the shooting to death of Cordero.

Rojas said the sworn statement of Cartagena tagging Espinosa and Buenavista in the murder of his cousin could reverse the IPPO’s resolution.

The board member said Cartagena is also wary of his life as the brains behind the assassination will find ways to silence the latter, just like what happened to Cordero.

Rojas said they are appealing to Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez Sr. to immediately act on his cousin’s death.      

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

DEPARTMENT of Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez Sr. has yet to receive the petition for review filed by the family of slain vice mayor Ramon Rojas of Ajuy, Iloilo.

Gonzalez said the petition has not been forwarded to his table since it was filed two months ago.

Gonzalez said he will order a review once it is endorsed to his office.

The Rojas family and the Ajuy police headed by Insp. Ariel Artillero filed the petition for review a month ago after the Iloilo Provincial Prosecutor’s Office junked the murder charges against businessman Vicente “Etik” Espinosa and Lindsey “Bebe” Buenavista.

Espinosa is the alleged mastermind of the assassination of vice mayor Rojas last May at the town proper of Ajuy.

Buenavista is believed to be the one who handled alleged gunmen Edgar Cordero and Dennis “Totong” Cartagena.

While Espinosa and Buenavista were exonerated of the charges, the prosecutor elevated the case against Cordero and Cartagena to the Regional Trial Court.

But the provincial prosecutor said Espinosa and Buenavista can be charged again if there is new evidence directly linking them to the assassination.

Cordero was shot to death in Butuan City early this month in what is believed to be a set up allegedly staged by Buenavista and a certain Jose Bahadi.

Cartagena survived the attacked and tagged Espinosa as the one who paid them to kill the vice mayor.

Cartagena is now detained at the Iloilo Rehabilitation Center amid heavy security.

Board member Jett Rojas, a cousin of the slain vice mayor, accompanied one of the children of vice mayor Rojas to the DOJ office to ask Gonzalez to speed up the resolution of the petition for review.

BM Rojas said they have been complaining of the slow development in the case despite the evidence against the accused.

He also hit the provincial prosecutor for dragging its feet on the murder of Neoyet Penepona where Espinosa was also implicated as the alleged mastermind.

“But with the arrest and testimony of Cartagena, we hope that the case will move on,” board member Rojas said.

Dennis Cartagena

Dennis Cartagena

Special treatment for Cartagena

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

A 24-hour security detail. A special cook. ‘Private’ sleeping quarters.

What more can the prime suspect in the death of Ajuy vice mayor Ramon Rojas ask for inside the Iloilo Rehabilitation Center (IRC)?

Dennis “Totong” Cartagena is getting special treatment inside the IRC to secure him from persons who want to silence him.

According to Senior Supt. Ricardo dela Paz, concurrent IRC warden, Cartagena is isolated inside his own cell, apart from other inmates.

Instead of the regular IRC jailguards, members of the Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team guard Cartagena on a round-the-clock basis.

And to prevent attempts to poison him while in detention, a special cook prepares Cartagena’s meals.

Apparently, other inmates have no qualms about Cartagena’s “privileged” standing inside the IRC since he returned from Butuan City where he and fellow suspect Edgar Cordero hid after allegedly assassinating Rojas in May.

Cordero, who is believed to be Rojas’ triggerman, was shot to death in Butuan City allegedly by Lindsey Buenavista and Jose Bahadi.

Buenavista was also tagged in the Rojas slay case along with alleged mastermind Vicente “Etik” Espinosa but they were exonerated by the Iloilo Provincial Prosecutors for lack of evidence.

The prosecutor’s resolution is now under review by the Department of Justice.

In his affidavit, Cartagena, who drove the getaway motorcycle used in Rojas’ killing, again implicated Buenavista and Espinosa to the assassination plot.

After confessing to the crime, Cartagena has been heavily guarded by the Iloilo Provincial Police Office until he testifies before the court.

Dela Paz said he approved the special arrangement for Cartagena to ensure his safety inside the IRC.

Provincial Attorney’s Office assistant regional director Jose Edmund Guillen earlier said Cartagena could turn state witness depending on the decision of the prosecution should the case is elevated to the Regional Trial Court.

REVELATION Dennis “Totong” Cartagena subscribes to his sworn affidavit where he tagged Vicente “Etik” Espinosa as the one who ordered vice mayor Ramon Rojas’s assassination. (FAA photo)

REVELATION Dennis “Totong” Cartagena subscribes to his sworn affidavit where he tagged Vicente “Etik” Espinosa as the one who ordered vice mayor Ramon Rojas’s assassination. (FAA photo)

Cartagena reveals all in 6-page affidavit

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

“JUSTICE is all I want.”

With these words, Dennis “Totong” Cartagena, one of the suspects in the murder of Ajuy vice mayor Ramon Rojas, spilled everything he knew about the case.

Around 8pm Thursday, Cartagena swore by his extrajudicial confession before Iloilo prosecutor Nora Causing-Española.

It took Cartagena more or less seven hours to narrate the conspiracy leading to Rojas’s assassination in the morning of May 22, 2008 at Brgy. Central, Ajuy.

Chief Insp. Aaron Lirazan, Police Regional Office (PRO-6) legal officer, queried Cartagena who was assisted by his counsel Jose Edmund Guillen, assistant regional director of the Public Attorneys Office.

The deposition was conducted in the conference room of the Provincial Legal Office at the Iloilo provincial capitol.

“I feel relieved. I know I will not live long, although I’m not hoping for it, but I revealed the truth to bring justice to vice mayor Rojas’s death. With this, I hope that the people of Ajuy will be kinder to me despite what we did,” Cartagena said.

Cartagena was tagged as the driver of the black motorcycle used in Rojas’ assassination. Suspected robber Edgar Cordero, who died in a shooting incident in Butuan City last week, was the alleged triggerman.

Cartagena said the case could have reached a dead end if not for what happened in Butuan City.

“We dug this hole and covered it. But somebody else opened the hole again. Now, there is no stopping the stench from going out,” he added before lawyers, mediamen and armed police officers.

In his 6-page affidavit written in Hiligaynon, Cartagena said they shot Rojas to death “because we were paid by Vicente ‘Etik’ Espinosa alias ‘Bulldog’ of Brgy. Lanjagan, Ajuy, Iloilo.”

Cartagena said he was a former bodyguard of Espinosa from April to May 2007 elections along with Rey Peña, Lindsey Buenavista and a certain Rey.

Right after the May 2007 elections, Cartagena said Espinosa has been plotting to kill Rojas.

Aside from the vice mayor, the assassination plot also included provincial board member Jett Rojas, Ajuy Mayor Juancho Alvarez, Councilors Pepe Dumayao and Pepe Baterna and Punong Barangay Ronnie “Calis” Bañas.

The plot was finalized April 2008 when Buenavista presented Cartagena to Espinosa at the latter’s house in Brgy. Lanjagan.

“We met Vicente ‘Etik’ Espinosa and told me and Buenavista that we will kill vice mayor Ramon Rojas and he gave us P8,000 for our allowance and surveillance expenses,” Cartagena said.

For several days, Cartagena and Cordero monitored Rojas’s movements using a black Honda XRM motorcycle owned by a certain Pastor Condino of Banate, Iloilo.

The hit happened around 5:30am of May 22 while Rojas was jogging on the highway at Brgy. Central.

“When we reached Sitio Casamata which is sparsely populated, we drove near vice mayor Rojas and Edgar Cordero quickly shot him twice. Cordero then alighted from the motorcycle then chased and shot Rojas who was running towards the mahogany plantation. Then I saw Rojas fall to the ground but Cordero went near and repeatedly shot him,” Cartagena said.

The duo then fled to Brgy. Badiangan, Ajuy where they left the motorcycle and proceeded to Buenavista’s house at Brgy. San Fernando, Barotac Viejo. They later learned from the radio that Rojas was dead.

The following day, May 23 at around 7am, Buenavista brought Cartagena and Cordero to Espinosa’s house at Ledesco Village, LaPaz, Iloilo to get P50,000.

Cartagena said Buenavista received the money from Espinosa before going to the Muelle Loney port to buy ship tickets to Bacolod City. But when they arrived at the pier, Espinosa’s driver identified only as Pakit handed the tickets to Buenavista.

Pakit then invited them to his house where Espinosa called Buenavista’s cellphone informing them that another P100,000 will be given to them. They returned to Espinosa’s house with Buenavista receiving the money.

Pakit then brought the trio back to the Muelle Loney port where they divided the P100,000 cash. Cartagena said he only got P30,000.

From Iloilo, they proceeded to Bacolod City where they rode a bus bound for Cebu. From Cebu, they boarded a Cokaliong ship to Surigao City.

Buenavista then brought Cartagena and Cordero to his uncle Joe Bahadi in Dinagat Island before returning to Iloilo.

Bahadi brought the two suspects to Butuan City where Cordero was shot dead allegedly by Buenavista.

The legal counsels of Espinosa declined to issue comment on Cartagena’s revelations saying they will wait for an official copy of the affidavit.

Cartagena is now in the custody of the Iloilo Provincial Police Office (IPPO) in an undisclosed safehouse along with his live-in-partner and their 1-month-old baby.

IPPO director Ricardo dela Paz said they are trying to figure out security arrangements for Cartagena and his family.

Dela Paz also assured that Ajuy will remain peaceful despite the statements of Cartagena.

“We will not allow violence to reign over the town,” he said.

Guarded by heavily-armed police officers, Dennis Cartagena arrives at the Iloilo domestic port Thursday morning. (FAA photo)

Guarded by heavily-armed police officers, Dennis Cartagena arrives at the Iloilo domestic port Thursday morning. (FAA photo)

Jett Rojas: Stop it Nonoy Etik!

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

ILOILO provincial board member Jett Rojas, cousin of slain vice mayor Ramon Rojas of Ajuy, Iloilo, virtually pleaded for his life as he confirmed the identity of the mastermind of the sensational murder case.

Without batting an eyelash, board member Rojas entreated his cousin Vicente “Etik” Espinosa to stop the alleged plans to assassinate their family members.

BM Rojas said Dennis Cartagena, one of the alleged gunmen who killed the vice mayor, admitted to him that it was Espinosa who ordered the hit.

Cartagena requested to talk to board member Rojas upon arriving at the provincial capitol yesterday morning.

The board member said he was able to talk to Cartagena for 30 minutes to find out the details of the plot.

“Cartagena confirmed that the mastermind was Vicente “Etik” alias Bulldog Espinosa of Brgy. Lanjagan, Ajuy. This means a lot to the Rojas family to hear that it was Etik Espinosa who ordered them to kill vice mayor Rojas,” the board member said.

Cartagena is believed Cartagena is believed to be the driver of the motorcycle used in the assassination. Edgar Cordero, who was shot to death in Butuan City last week, was tagged as Rojas’s triggerman.

The board member representing the fifth district also discovered the alleged plans of Espinosa to liquidate him, Ajuy Mayor Juancho Alvarez and town councilor Pepe Baterna.

“That confirmed the intelligence report we got that there are more targets. They already got the vice mayor but they were also planning to kill me, the mayor and Councilor Baterna. Their focus was on me and Mayor Alvarez because Baterna was a ‘minimal’ target. Even before, we believe 99.9 percent that Espinosa was the mastermind,” he said.

Rojas said Espinosa should abort his plans “for the sake of our children.”

“We appeal to our cousin, Nonoy Etik, why do you want to kill us? We have our children who love us. We hope that he will discontinue that because he also has his own children and we are cousins. We ask his parents and siblings to convince Etik not to pursue the (plot) because our family will be affected,” board member Rojas said.

Rojas said Cartagena was thankful to survive the attack on their lives in Butuan City “because he believes that he still has a purpose.”

“That was divine intervention. Cartagena promised to tell everything he knows after surviving the attack,” the board member said.

Board member Rojas said politics or personal grudges could be the reason behind the plot on their lives.

“But we cousins are very close to each other. The slain vice mayor even goes to occasions in Nonoy Etik’s house. Before the election (May 2007), I was able to talk to Etik,” Rojas said.

BUTUAN INCIDENT

Councilor Baterna said Cartagena tagged Lindsay “Baby” Buenavista as one of the gunmen who shot him and Cordero at Brgy. Mahay, Butuan City Friday last week.

Cordero died in the shooting while Cartagena survived.

Buenavista was also tagged in the Rojas slay case but he was exonerated by the provincial prosecutors office for lack of evidence.

Baterna said Buenavista’s uncle, Jose Bajade, trapped them into the ambush by inviting them to a birthday party in Butuan.

Before they went down to the city, which is some 15 kilometers from Brgy. Don Francisco where they hid, Bajade took Cordero’s caliber .38 revolver. Bajade drove the motorcycle to Butuan City.

Upon reaching Brgy. Mahay, Bajade stopped to urinate. Then the shots rang and Cordero fell to the ground mortally wounded.

Cartagena was able to flee and sought the help of a group of men drinking liquor. He said he saw Buenavista riding on Bajade’s motorcycle.

“Bajade and Buenavista planned to kill them. They were led to the trap. Maybe Bajade also shot the two using Cordero’s revolver,” Baterna said.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

WILL Dennis “Totong” Cartagena, one of the suspects in the murder of vice mayor Ramon Rojas of Ajuy, Iloilo, turn state witness after revealing what he personally knew about the assassination?

Only the Iloilo Provincial Prosecutor’s Office (IPPO) can determine, depending on his participation, if Cartagena is qualified to become a witness after tagging Vicente “Etik” Espinosa as the alleged brains of Rojas’ death.

Cartagena is believed to be the driver of the motorcycle used in the assassination. Edgar Cordero, who was shot to death in Butuan City last week, was tagged as the triggerman.

Public Attorneys Office-6 assistant regional director Jose Edmund Guillen, whom Cartagena chose as legal counsel, said the police can still file another case against Espinosa which will include Cartagena’s statement.

“The principle of double jeopardy applies to cases that were dismissed by the courts. But if the case was dismissed by the prosecutors for lack of probable cause, new charges can be filed if there is new body of evidence,” Guillen said.

The Iloilo Provincial Police Office earlier accused Espinosa and Lindsey “Baby” Buenavista of hatching Rojas’s assassination. But the provincial prosecutor dismissed the charges last month for lack of evidence.

But the IPPO said fresh charges can be lodged against Espinosa and Buenavista if there is new “quantum of evidence.”

Guillen said it is up to the prosecution whether to make Cartagena a state witness.

“At the time he issues a statement, he is a suspect because he is part of the alleged crime. It really depends on the prosecution whether to make him a witness during the trial,” Guillen added.

SUSPECT FEARS FOR HIS LIFE

Cartagena arrived past 9am Thursday from Butuan City, where he and alleged triggerman Edgar Cordero hid for more than a month, along with a team of heavily-armed police officers.

Wearing a light brown sweater, maong pants, sneakers and a bullet proof vest, Cartagena sported a fearful grimace as he alighted from the St. Joseph the Worker ship of Negros Navigation.

Members of the Iloilo Provincial Police Office special weapons and tactics team turned their gaze around the Iloilo domestic port after receiving reports that Cartagena will be assassinated upon reaching Iloilo.

Cartagena was whisked inside a black AUV and transported to the Iloilo provincial capitol where he was presented to the media and later underwent deposition before Police Regional Office-6 legal officer Aaron Lirazan.

The Rojas slay suspect was lodged in the pantry of the Governor’s Office where he rested after their trip from Cagayan de Oro.

A commotion broke out when Atty. Christopher Espera insisted that he accompany Cartagena at the Capitol.

A visibly irate Senior Supt. Ricardo dela Paz, Iloilo provincial police director, let Cartagena and Espera face each other to determine if the former indeed hired the lawyer’s services.

“I don’t know him. I did not hire him,” Cartagena said before the media and Capitol officials.

Espera, a junior associate of Atty. Edeljulio Romero who defended Espinosa, said he was hired by a relative of Cartagena whom he did not identify citing lawyer-client relationship.

“While we were in Butuan, Cartagena was already using my services by running some errands for him and his live-in partner. But things suddenly changed when the police arrived,” Espera said.

Espera said he will not anymore help Cartagena after disowning him.

As of this writing, Cartagena is still undergoing deposition at the Provincial Legal Office.

Ajuy Councilor Pepe Baterna and provincial administrator Manuel Mejorada, who observed Cartagena’s investigation, said the suspect gave every detail of the Rojas slay case.

“He did mention Espinosa as the one who ordered the hit. He remembered the dates and time of their meetings and events. He even corrects Atty. Lirazan who was encoding his statements,” Baterna said.

Mejorada said Cartagena gave his statements voluntarily through question and answer mode.

Police: Cartagena admits role in Rojas slay case

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

DENNIS Cartagena, one of the suspects in the killing of Ajuy vice mayor Ramon Rojas, is singing like a canary.

Senior Supt. Ricardo dela Paz, Iloilo Provincial Police Office (IPPO) director said Cartagena has admitted his involvement in the shooting to death of Rojas in Ajuy town proper last May 22.

Dela Paz and a team of the IPPO Special Weapons and Tactics (Swat) team fetched Cartagena from Butuan City where he was arrested Sunday afternoon.

Cartagena’s co-accused, suspected triggerman Edgar Cordero, was killed in a shooting incident at Brgy. Mahay, Butuan City Friday evening. Cordero’s killers remain at-large.

Chief Supt. Isagani Cuevas, Police Regional Office (PRO-6) director, said he dispatched dela Paz to Butuan City “to ensure the safety and security of Cartagena.”

Dela Paz said the Butuan City police turned over Cartagena to the IPPO custody yesterday morning.

“In our conversation, he admitted his participation in the assassination of vice mayor Rojas,” dela Paz said.

The IPPO director said he will reveal more details on Cartagena’s confession when they arrive in Iloilo.

Dela Paz said Cartagena’s cooperation in the investigation will resolve the Rojas slay case.

As of presstime, Cartagena and the IPPO team are on their way back to Region 6.

Cuevas said Cartagena’s statement can only corroborate the statements of other witnesses in the murder charges now pending with the Regional Trial Court.

“Under the law, the judicial confessions cannot implicate other personalities in the case but such can support the allegations of the witnesses. The suspect cannot incriminate another person but he can narrate facts that will strengthen the case,” Cuevas said.

Since Cartagena is one of the major suspects in the case, “he cannot become a witness since he is the least innocent.”

“But he will be treated as a high risk detainee because of his involvement in the case,” Cuevas said.

Cartagena is believed to be the driver of the motorcycle used in the assassination while Cordero pulled the trigger on Rojas.

Lindesy Buenavista was accused of helping plan the assassination while businessman Vicente Espinosa was the alleged mastermind.

But the Iloilo Provincial Prosecutors Office dismissed the charges against Buenavista and Espinosa.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

EDGAR Cordero and Dennis Cartagena may have been trapped into an ambush Friday last week.

 

This is the assessment of the Butuan City police as they try to figure out the shooting incident which resulted in the death of Cordero, the alleged gunman of slain vice mayor Ramon Rojas of Ajuy, Iloilo.

 

Supt. Jun Dumo, Butuan City police precinct 1 chief, said Joe Bajade, the man who drove the motorcycle Cordero and Cartagena rode on last week, may have set up the two Rojas slay suspect.

 

Citing his conversation with Cartagena, Dumo said it was Bajade who stopped to urinate near an unfinished bridge at Brgy. Mahay, Butuan City.

 

“While they were relieving themselves, several shots rang and Cartagena saw Cordero hit in his body. Cartagena then sought cover to avoid being shot. After the gunfire, he saw two emerge from a dark area where the shots came and boarded Bajade’s motorcycle. We have reason to believe that Bajade might be involved in this incident. He remains at-large as of now,” Dumo said.

 

Dumo said Bajade, who is believed to be a native of Passi City, accompanied Cordero and Cartagena from Iloilo to Butuan more than a month ago.

 

“Dati na silang magkasama pa dyan sa Iloilo. Bajade is married to a member of the Ecleo family in Dumagat Island reason why they have a house here,” Dumo added.

 

Dumo said they will charge Bajade with murder for the death of Cordero and frustrated murder for the failed attempt on Cartagena’s life.

 

But who is Bajade?

 

Further check with the police later showed that Bajade might be a relative of Lindsey Buenavista, one of the suspects in the Rojas murder case. Records from the Banate police station show that Buenavista’s middle name is Bajade.

 

Buenavista’s father Rudy earlier claimed that Cordero and Cartagena stayed in their house in days before Rojas was gunned down in Ajuy town proper.

 

The Buenavista residence allegedly served as the safehouse for Cordero and Cartagena through the help of Lindsey Buenavista.

 

But Rudy Buenavista later retracted his statements for still unknown reasons.

 

The Iloilo Provincial Prosecutors Office has exonerated Lindsey Buenavista and alleged mastermind Vicente Espinosa from the murder charges for lack of sufficient charges.

 

The Banate police personnel said Buenavista is facing carnapping with homicide charges for the killing of a businessman in Banate May this year.

 

 

MORE TWISTS

Another twist in the Rojas slay case is the surprise visit of a lawyer identified with the law office that defended Espinosa.

 

Atty. Edeljulio Romero, one of the Espinos counsels, said his junior associate, Christopher Aspera, went to Butuan City Sunday upon request of a client.

 

Romero refused to name the person who sent Aspera to Butuan City citing the confidentiality of the lawyer-client relationship.

 

Romero said he was at first hesitant to allow Aspera to help Cartagena “because it is complicated.”

 

“I was one of the major players in the case being the lawyer of Espinosa. But I since he is a young lawyer, he also needs to handle big cases such as this for his career advancement,” Romero said.

 

Senior Supt. Ricardo dela Paz, Iloilo provincial police director, and a team of Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team personally fetched Cartagena from Butuan City.

 

Dela Paz said Cartagena was surprised with the sudden appearance of Aspera at the Butuan City police precinct to offer his legal services.

 

“Cartagena said he does not know Aspera and refused the latter’s offer,” dela Paz said. (With reports from Aksyon Radyo-Iloilo)

A witness identifies the Rojas slay suspects (from left) Edgar Cordero, Dennis Cartagena and Lindsey Buenavista who was later spared by the prosecutors.

A witness identifies the Rojas slay suspects (from left) Edgar Cordero, Dennis Cartagena and Lindsey Buenavista who was later spared by the prosecutors. (Click to enlarge image)

 

Who ordered Cordero’s assassination?

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

WHO wants Edgar Cordero, the alleged triggerman of the late Ajuy vice mayor Ramon Rojas, dead?

This question is now the focus of the Iloilo Provincial Police Office (IPPO) after learning that Cordero was shot dead by two unidentified suspects at Purok 18, Brgy. Mahay, Butuan, City Friday last week.

Based on reports from the IPPO, Cordero and fellow suspect Dennis Cartagena were riding a motorcycle driven by a certain Jose Bajade when they were accosted by two armed men on board another motorcycle.

Cordero succumbed to two gunshot wounds in his chest and back but Cartagena and Bajade managed to flee unscathed

Senior Supt. Ricardo dela Paz said Cartagena and Cordero, who have a P350,000 reward for their arrest, fled to Butuan City more than a month ago. They also brought their family with them, an indication that someone financed their escape.

The two suspects stayed at Brgy. San Francisco in Butuan City and used the false names Dave Panisales (Cordero) and DJ Herrera (Cartagena).

According to Senior Supt. Jun Dumo, Butuan City police director, Herrera introduced himself as the son of a mayor and would plunge in drinking sprees with their neighbors.

The police uncovered the real identities of two suspects when Nema, Cordero’s wife, tried to claim his body from the funeral parlor. When she failed to present proof that she is Cordero’s spouse, Nema revealed their true identities.

Dumo said he coordinated with the IPPO and asked for the pictures and warrants of arrest of Cordero and Cartagena.

Police arrested Cartagena 2pm Saturday at Brgy. San Francisco. He did not resist, Dumo added.

Senior Supt. dela Paz said they will form a security team that will fetch Cartagena in Butuan City to bring him back to Iloilo.

“We will secure him until he reaches Iloilo, by then we will know the real story behind the killing of vice mayor Rojas and Cordero,” dela Paz said.

Dela Paz said they cannot speculate on the suspects and motive behind Cordero’s death.

DENIAL
Cordero and Cartagena hogged the limelight after they were tagged in Rojas’s assassination May this year.

Based on information from the IPPO, Cordero, a native of Brgy. Sibaguan, Lambunao, Iloilo, is the alleged leader of a robbery gang in Iloilo province and a hired gun.

Cordero was a member of the Roger Palma robbery group before the arrest of their leader early this year. It is believed that he betrayed Palma by tipping authorities of the latter’s whereabouts.

The alleged crimes attributed to Cordero made him the province’s “most wanted person.”

Cartagena, a native of Brgy. Braulan, San Enrique, Iloilo, is believed to be the driver of the motorcycle used in Rojas’s killing.

In an interview over Bombo Radyo Saturday, Cartagena denied any involvement in the Rojas slay case saying he and Cordero were making amakan (mats made from bamboo slats) in Lambunao when the vice mayor was gunned down in Ajuy town proper.

“At my young age, I cannot stomach to kill anyone except if my life is in danger,” Cartagena said.

Cartagena said Cordero invited him to Butuan City where the latter has an uncle with a big coconut plantation.

“He said life here was easy and we can work for his uncle,” he added.

Cartagena said he has been staying at Brgy. San Francisco, Butuan City for two months already. They left Iloilo last June and passed by Bacolod City, Cebu, Surigao before reaching Butuan City.

When they reached Butuan City, Cartagena said they told residents of Brgy. San Francisco that they relocated there after losing their livelihood to typhoon Frank.

When asked if he knows Vicente Espinosa, who was earlier tagged as the mastermind in the Rojas slay case, Cartagena said he only heard the latter’s name in the news “but I don’t know him personally.”

The Iloilo Provincial Prosecutor’s Office had dismissed the murder charge against Espinosa for lack of sufficient evidence. Only Cordero and Cartagena were made to face the charges before the Regional Trial Court.

Judge Rogelio Amador of RTC Branch 66 earlier issued a warrant of arrest against Cordero and Cartagena for the murder of vice mayor Rojas.

But witnesses in the murder case claimed Cartagena worked as Espinosa’s bodyguard during the May 2007 elections.

Cartagena said he cannot ascertain who shot them at Brgy. Mahay, Butuan City last Friday saying it was dark.

“We were supposed to go to a birthday party that night. Along the way, we stopped to urinate. Then two persons shot us and hit Edgar,” Cartagena said.

Bajade, the driver of the motorcycle, is now considered a suspect in Cordero’s death and remains at-large.

Nema Cordero also denied her husband’s involvement in the Rojas slay case although she admitted that he was involved in robbery cases in Iloilo.

Nema said they fled to Butuan City for fear that the Rojas family will avenge the vice mayor’s death. She also appealed for help to bring back her husband’s body to Iloilo.

Cartagena said he is willing to face the charges against him.

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