By Freddie Lazaro
SAN FERNANDO CITY, La Union – A panel of state prosecutors has cleared a young Baguio City businessman from complicity in the September 11, 2019 ambush of former Pangasinan governor Amado Espino Jr.
DOJ panel of prosecutors. chaired by San Carlos Deputy City Prosecutor Mitchel Go with members Assistant City Prosecutors Dennis Anthony Fito and Rohail Castro, ruled that 24-year old Jewel Castro could not be indicted in the ambush that wounded Espino and killed two of his security aides.
Police found high-powered guns in a Hyundai Elantra that was recovered in San Carlos City and a Ford Everest found in Malasiqui town, a day after Espino’s convoy was waylaid.
The police-instituted “Regional Special Investigating Task Group Espino (SITG Espino)” claimed to have traced to Castro the ownership of the Hyundai Elantra car after a certain Marivic Villanueva, its registered owner, sold it to a certain Michael Padayao on November 24, 2017 then parlayed it anew to a certain Pediraldo Ras Luciñera, then purportedly to him.
The DOJ panel of prosecutors, in its resolution dated January 3, 2020, found that Castro “could not be implicated either as principal, accomplice or even an accessory because “he never had physical possession of the red Hyundai Elantra car” giving him credence above Lucinera’s claims, described by the fiscals as “vague” and whose allegations were “peppered with inconsistencies”.
Instead, the fiscals indicted Lucinera for obstruction of justice for giving false or fabricated information to mislead authorities from getting into the bottom of the Espino ambush.
Castro earlier obtained a certification from the Land Transportation Office’s (LTO) Management Information Division that he never owned a Hyundai vehicle as attested to by Farramilah Mangadang-Gumar, officer-in-charge of the Records Section of the LTO’s Management Information Division in East Avenue, Quezon City.
It said that “upon verification from the LTO-IT database, no record of Hyundai vehicle (was registed) to (Castro’s) name.”
Castro heaved a sigh of relief with the ruling of the panel of prosecutors while bewailing how “erroneous, misleading, irresponsible and reckless” reports linked him to the ambush.
He added that these reports “besmirched his reputation and jeopardized his sense of security” for becoming “unjustly dragged into the crime.” “This is a victory of justice for me,” the young businessman said.
Go and his panel of prosecutors however recommended the filing of double murder charges and two more attempted murder against Albert Palisoc and Benjie Resultan, whose were positively identified via CCTV footages near the ambush site.
Also charged was John Paul Regalado, the owner of the Ford Everest get-away vehicle after he never refuted he owned the vehicle and that “he furnished the means through which the crimes were carried out”.
Four other John Does were also also charged as co-conspirators.