22 face raps in Espino Jr. ambush

LINGAYEN– The Special Investigation Task Group Espino Jr. already filed two counts of murder and four counts of frustrated murder against 22 persons, 10 of whom were identified only as John Does, on the attempt on the life of former Rep. Amado Espino Jr. in a complaint before the City Prosecutor’s Office of San Carlos City on Oct. 1 but the case is still far from solved.

This was admitted by P/Brigadier General Joel Orduna, police regional director, in a press conference Wednesday joined by P/Col. Ismael Yu, deputy regional director and head of SITG Espino Jr. and his co-head P/Col. Redrico Maranan, police provincial director of Pangasinan.

Named in the complaint were Albert Palisoc, alias “Alvin Pascarab”, “Mark Anthony Palisoc” and “Claudio Gabriel”; Armando Frias, alias “Jong”. Benjie Resultan (Rezultab), Joey Ferrer, Ronnie de los Santos, Gerry Pascua, Sherwin Diaz, Teofilo Ferrer, alias “Pong”, a certain Ruseller”, alias “Sel”, all of Urbiztondo, Pangasinan; Jewel Castro of Baguio City; John Paul Regalado of Quezon City and one Alfred Pascalaran, and 10 others identified as John Does.

He said the 10 John Does include the masterminds, financiers, conspirators, and accessories to the cases.

Some of the suspects, are Pangasinan residents, while one is from Tondo, Manila and one is from Baguio City. Only Frias was found to have a pending case for murder in Pangasinan, said Maranan.   

He said the 12 were identified by several witnesses and actually seen on CCTV footages alighting from their vehicles which they abandoned in Barangay Cobol, San Carlos City, and Barangay Pasima, Malasiqui, and escaped on foot leaving their high powered firearms, ammunition and face masks in those vehicles.

Orduña said the case is not yet considered solved “as we are still identifying the masterminds, financiers, conspirators, and other persons involved.”

He said SITG Espino Jr. continues its investigation to identify and arrest the masterminds, financiers, and their cohorts although more persons of interest have been identified who can be invited anytime. It is focused on three possible motives: politics, business rivalry and personal grudge.

Orduña added that the PNP has not yet completed its ballistic examinations on the firearms recovered from the two get-away vehicles.

He said that the group could be considered as professional guns-for-hire operating in Pangasinan and adjacent areas considering the powerful firearms they used, the manner of execution of the ambuscade as well as the escape of the suspects.

Castro was included in the case because it was he to whom the Hyundai Elantra, one of the get-away vehicles, was reportedly sold last. Castro, however, deplored the PNP report that dragged his name into the ambuscade as “erroneous”, “misleading”, “irresponsible” and “reckless” since he never owned a Hyundai Elantra.

To back his claim, Castro provided The PUNCH a certification from the LTO that he never owned a Hyundai Elantra as claimed by the police. 

Orduña said Castro cannot be excluded from the case because the evidence so far gathered pointed to him as the last owner of the vehicle, like Regalado the owner of the Ford  Everest abandoned by the gunmen in Barangay Pasima, Malasiqui.

Espino Jr. was wounded in that ambush together with his close-in bodyguard, P/Staff Sergeant Jayson Malsi and Kervin Marpori, a private nurse. Anthony Columbino, the driver of the backup unit, was unscathed when he jumped out from the vehicle as soon as the gunmen opened fire.  

Asked why there are four counts of frustrated murder filed since only three were wounded in that incident, the PNP regional legal officer said this was because driver Columbino, although not wounded, was also exposed to extreme danger when the ambushers opened fire. 

He said soon as the court issues the warrants of arrest, the identified suspects will be arrested at their respective residences.

The news conference was attended by the families of the late Agapito Cuison, the slain driver of former governor and former congressman Espino; and of the late Staff Sergeant Richard Esguerra who begged for justice for the untimely deaths of their kin. 

Maranan said the police has released the P300,000 financial assistance from the President’s Social Pension Fund for Esguerra while the provincial government extended financial assistance to Cuison.

Orduna called on the public to help provide information on other suspects involved in the slay attempt PNP hotline 09175175305.( (Leonardo Micua/ Nora Dominguez/Helen Martin/PIO/PIA)

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