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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

 

THE lawyers of businessman Vicente Espinosa will question the “inconsistencies” in the statement of Dennis Cartagena relative to the murder of vice mayor Ramon Rojas of Ajuy, Iloilo last year.

Atty. Edeljulio Romero, a member of Espinosa’s legal team, said Cartagena’s extra-judicial confession extracted last September 2008 contradicted his not guilty plea before the Regional Trial Court (RTC) in February 2009.

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

Cartagena said he drove the motorcycle used in the killing while Cordero pulled the trigger on Rojas.

Cartagena went back to Iloilo last year after he was traced to Butuan City where he and Cordero fled after Rojas’ death.

Cordero was shot to death allegedly by Lindsey Buenavista, who is also tagged in the Rojas slay case, and a certain Joe Bajadi.

But during the arraignment before Judge Rogelio Amador of RTC Branch 66 in Barotac Viejo, Cartagena pleaded not guilty.

Things got complicated when Cartagena reaffirmed his affidavit before the three-man Department of Justice (DoJ) panel which conducted the second preliminary investigation on the case Monday.

Romero said these inconsistencies will affect Cartagena’s statements and credibility.

“In his affidavit, he said he was involved in the killing because Mr. Espinosa allegedly paid him to assassinate the late vice mayor, only to deny the same before the court early this year. During the preliminary investigation last Monday, he reaffirmed his affidavit. Which is which now?” Romero said.

Romero said they will include these inconsistencies in their counter-affidavit which they will submit to the DoJ panel next month.

Romero also questioned the move of the Ajuy police and the Rojas family to make Cartagena a witness when he has yet to be charged for the crime.

“He can only become state witness after he is formally charged before the court,” he said.

But Cartagena’s lawyer Jose Edmund Guillen, regional director of the Public Attorneys Office, said the panel is still establishing probable cause in Espinosa’s alleged involvement in the case.

“If the case is filed in court, the prosecution can recommend Cartagena to turn state witness,” Guillen said in an interview with Aksyon Radyo.

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.

Dela Paz: The usual suspects

Dela Paz: The usual suspects

 

Rojas: We are extra careful

Rojas: We are extra careful

 

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

POLICE are running hot on the information that two alleged crime ring members have been tapped to kill four public officials in northern Iloilo.

 

Senior Supt. Ricardo dela Paz, Iloilo Provincial Police Office (IPPO) director, said the two persons allegedly hired to kill 5th district board member Jett Rojas, Ajuy Mayor Juancho Alvarez and two Sangguniang Bayan members of Ajuy have links to the dreaded Ilonggo group.

 

The Ilonggo group gained notoriety for robbery and kidnapping operations in Metro Manila and Luzon in the 80s and 90s.

 

Dela Paz said the two alleged guns-for-hire, whom he refused to name, are also linked to robbery incidents in Iloilo.

 

Based on the information obtained by The Daily Guardian, one of the alleged assassins is related to a suspect in the Jefferson Tan kidnapping case and strings of robberies.

 

The IPPO chief said they continue to monitor the movement of the group that are plotting to liquidate Rojas and Alvarez.    

 

“We have cautioned Board Member Rojas and Mayor Alvarez to be more careful after we have identified the persons hired to kill them. They are the usual suspects although it is possible that they have new recruits in their group after we neutralized 11 suspected robbers and assassins in the province last year,” dela Paz said.

 

Dela Paz also noted that robbers in Iloilo have “diversified” to becoming assassins because of the prevailing economic crunch.

 

“Some of them are willing to offer their services just to earn money,” he added.

 

Rojas said the plot on their lives could be linked to the murder of his cousin, Ajuy vice mayor Ramon Rojas who was shot dead May 2008 while jogging in the poblacion.

 

Rojas said they are taking extra precaution even as he called on those plotting against them to stop further bloodshed in their town.

 

The police had accused businessman Vicente “Etik” Espinosa of masterminding the vice mayor’s assassination but the Iloilo Provincial Prosecutor’s Office dismissed the case for lack of probable cause.

 

The case underwent review by the Department of Justice but Secretary Raul Gonzalez Sr. has yet to issue a resolution because he is still asking for a copy of the sworn affidavit of suspected gunman Dennis Cartagena who tagged Espinosa in the case.

 

The Rojas family earlier provided a copy of Cartagena’s statement but Gonzalez said it went missing in his office.

 

Espinosa denied any involvement in the Rojas slay case in an interview with RMN-Iloilo.  

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

THE camp of businessman Vicente “Etik” Espinosa is expecting a favorable decision from the Department of Justice (DoJ) relative to the review on the assassination of vice mayor Ramon Rojas of Ajuy, Iloilo.

 

Atty. Edeljulio Romero, a member of Espinosa’s legal team, said he gathered information that the DoJ will uphold the decision of the Iloilo Provincial Prosecutor’s Office (IPPO) to exonerate his client from the Rojas slay case.

 

Romero said there is no strong evidence that will link Espinosa to the slaying, not even the confession of suspected gunman Dennis Cartagena who is now detained under heavy guard at the Iloilo Rehabilitation Center.

 

Board Member Jett Rojas, a cousin of the slain vice mayor, earlier said the DoJ will issue a resolution on the case anytime this week.

 

The IPPO dismissed the murder charges against Espinosa and Lindsey Buenavista for lack of evidence July 2008.

 

But the Rojases filed a petition for review with the DoJ assailing the IPPO resolution.

 

When Cartagena was arrested in Butuan City and tagged Espinosa to the case, the victim’s family asked the DoJ to include Cartagena’s affidavit to bolster their case against Espinosa.

 

Romero said Cartagena’s affidavit is just “a mere scrap of paper because it was not included in the preliminary investigation.”

 

“How can the DoJ rule on something that was not included in the preliminary stages of the case? The DoJ cannot scold or reprimand the IPPO for failure to act on a piece of evidence that was not presented by the complainant,” Romero said.

 

The lawyer said it would be unfair to include Cartagena’s affidavit in the petition for review “because my client was not able to answer the accusations before the IPPO.”

 

Board member Rojas lamented the status of the case saying the efforts of the police to gather evidence and witnesses “went to naught because of what is happening in our justice system.”

 

“The case of Neoyet Penepona, which was backed up by strong evidence and statements of first hand witnesses was even dismissed for supposedly lack of proof. What’s happening with our justice system?” BM Rojas said.

 

Espinosa allegedly ordered the death of Penepona, his former employee, by poisoning when the latter purportedly embezzled money from his gasoline station.

 

Espinosa had denied the accusations.

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.

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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