ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines – The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) has recommended the filing of murder charges against the policemen who figured in killing “willfully, unlawfully and feloniously” the three youngsters suspected as drug couriers in Liloy, Zamboanga del Norte almost three years ago.
Sunstar, a regional news network, reported the incident as “shootout” with the enforcers.
In its August 4 report by Bong Garcia, Sunstar reported that the police have “killed three suspected drug couriers in a shootout along the highway in the province of Zamboanga del Norte.”
The NBI Western Mindanao Regional Office (WEMRO), however, in its March 12 report forwarded to the Office of the Provincial Prosecutor in Zamboanga del Norte, stated that the “police officers and armed with high caliber rifles, conspiring, confederating and mutually helping one another, with intent to kill, with treachery, evident premeditation and superior strength, did then and there, willfully, unlawfully and feloniously shoot to death Angelo Hofer, Anwar Sawadjaan and Noel Rey Bacalso.”
Moises Tamayo, NBI WEMRO acting regional director, recommended the following policemen to face trials for murder: Police Senior Inspector Ernesto Etorne, Jr., PO1 Rodel Sorela, PO1 Alcher Rendon, PO1 Lodgin Neri, PO1 Bryan Galea, and Several John Does.
What was reported in Sunstar and several newspapers three years ago?
“Senior Supt. Edwin Wagan, Zamboanga del Norte police director, said the shootout took place around 3:50 p.m. Friday along the national highway in the village of Overview, Liloy town.
Wagan identified the slain suspects as follows: Anwar Sawadjaan, 19, Angelo Hofer, 22, and, Noel Rey Bacalzo, all residents of Ipil, Zamboanga Sibugay province.
He said that prior to the shootout, they received report that suspected drug couriers were travelling aboard a pick-up type Black Nissan with plate number VBL-541 from the city to Ipil, Zamboanga Sibugay.
Wagan said that policemen from the First Manoeuvre Company of the Regional Public Safety Battalion (RPSB)-Zamboanga Peninsula have immediately set up a checkpoint in the village of Overview to possibly block the vehicle and to verify the veracity of the report.
The superintendent said the shootout ensued after the suspects accelerated in high speed and opened fire when the policemen have signalled them to stop as the vehicle was approaching the checkpoint in the area.
He said the policemen returned fire that resulted to the death of Sawadjaan and Bacalso. Hofer was rushed to the Liloy District Hospital for treatment but was declared dead on arrival by the attending physician.”
But what the NBI said based on the statements of witnesses?
“On 29 July 2016, at around 3:30 p.m., victims Anwar S. Sawadjaan, Angelo A. Hofer and Noel Rey Bacalso were on board a black pick-up truck plying the National Road connecting Dipolog City, Zamboanga del Norte and Municipality of Ipil, Zamboanga Sibugay.
Going towards the direction of Ipil, they reached the unpaved part of the road in Barangay Overview, Municipality of Liloy.
While approaching the end of the unpaved part of the road in the same barangay, the said pick-up slowed down its speed in order for it to go up smoothly on the cemented road.
Immediately after going up the cemented road and while still running slow, operatives of the 1st Maneuvering Company sporting their battle uniform and rifles, surfaced from behind the parked yellow grader and without warning and provocation from victims, fired their firearms simultaneously at the black pick-up which made the vehicle swerved towards its right side until it rested when it went out of the road hitting the barbwire fence.
Thereafter, the uniformed armed men went closer and peep inside the vehicle. Finding that the passengers of the vehicle are still alive, they again fired their rifles at the victims which resulted to their death.”
The NBI said, “there exists probable cause to charge abovementioned persons for the crime of murder.” (Mindanao Sun/ Photo: PhilStar)