By Martin Sadongdong
The Philippine National Police (PNP) on Monday welcomed the initiative of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to conduct a parallel investigation on the killings of priests in the last six months.
PNP chief Director General Oscar Albayalde, who served as the guest of speaker at the flag-raising ceremony of the NBI in its headquarters in Manila, said he discussed the matter with NBI Director Dante Gierran and both expressed confidence it will hasten the resolution of the three recorded cases of shooting incidents involving priests since December 2017.
Department of Justice (DOJ) Secretary Menardo Guevarra was the one who announced that the NBI is ready to help the PNP in solving the series of priest killings which involve Father Richmond Nilo on June 10 in Zaragoza, Nueva Ecija; Father Mark Ventura on April 29 in Gattaran, Cagayan; and Father Marcelito Paez on December 4, 2017 in Jaen also in Nueva Ecija.
Albayalde also said it may include the case of Father Rey Urmeneta who survived an ambush on June 6 in Calamba, Laguna; and other high-profile cases such as the killing of former La Union congressman Eufranio Eriguel.
“We are open to that and we welcome that development. What we need now is full cooperation because we all want justice for the victims,” Albayalde said in a press briefing upon his return at Camp Crame in Quezon City before noon.
“They will make their parallel investigation but they will closely coordinate with PNP. Kung mayroon silang makuha additional evidence, they will share it to us since kami naman ang naunang nag-file at naiintindihan naman nila ‘yon. Mas maganda actually na dalawang ahensya ang kumikilos para mawala rin ang pagduududa ng ating mga kababayan (If they obtain additional evidence, they will share it to us since we are the first to file the case and they understand that. It’s better that two agencies are working to erase the doubts of the public),” he added.
‘Not a fallguy’
The doubts that Albayalde was referring to were the claims that Adell Roll Milan, 26, the arrested primary suspect in the killing of Father Nilo, parish priest of Zaragoza, Nueva Ecija, was a “fall guy” or a person that is arrested for the supposed commission of a crime that he or she did not really do.
“Hindi kagagawan ng PNP na gagawing fallguy ‘yung suspek dahil ang witness na nagturo, yung altar server, hawak ng pari at never hinawakan ng PNP, never nakausap ng PNP (The PNP did not made the suspect a fallguy because the witness who identified him, the altar server, was in the custody of the priests and we never handled him, we never talked to him),” Albayalde maintained.
Albayalde even said that the altar server cried when he saw the picture of Milan in the rogue gallery of the Nueva Ecija Provincial Police Office (PPO).
“The only time that we were able to meet the boy is when I visited Zaragoza during the wake of Father Nilo. Ang sinabi niya, nakita daw niya harap-harapan ‘yung assailant, yung bumaril kay Father Nilo about two meters away, so he is really sure ‘yun ang bumaril (He said that he came face-to-face with the assailant, the one who shot Father Nilo about two meters away, so he is really sure that he is the gunman),” Albayalde recalled.
“Napaiyak pa ‘yung bata dahil three times na hinarap sa kanya, first ‘yung sa rogue gallery, then pinaulit-ulit. Tinanong pa siya ng mga pari kung sigurado ba siya dahil konsensya niya ‘yan. Then he said yes, sigurado siya na ‘yon ang bumaril kay Father Nilo (The child even cried because the photo of the suspect was presented to him thrice, first in the rogue gallery, then they presented it to him again. The priests even asked him if he was sure because it will be on his conscience. Then he said yes, he was sure that the suspect was the gunman who shot Father Nilo),” he added.
Over the weekened, the family of Milan claimed that he was in a drinking session at their house in Barangay Malapit, San Isidro, Nueva Ecija on the day Father Nilo was killed at the altar of Nuestra Senyora de la Nieve Chapel in Barangay Mayamot, Zaragoza, Nueva Ecija. He was minutes away from officiating a 6-p.m. mass when killed.
But Albayalde said it was just an alibi of the suspect’s family and they based Milan’s arrest on the concrete evidence gathered from the statement of the altar server.
“Kung hindi naman kami nag-file ng kaso, iba rin ang sasabihin ng [Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines] sa amin If we did not file a case, the CBCP will also have a thing to say against us.) What’s important here is we do not stop in our investigation. We are still conducting follow-up operations, meron pa tayong hinahanap na four to five suspects (we are still after four to five suspects),” he noted.
Milan has already been presented to the prosecutors Friday for inquest proceedings for a murder charge.