3 fugitive cops facing murder charges for ‘killing’ Spanish national surrender


Three policemen who have been charged with murder for the death in 2020 of Spanish national Diego Bello Lafuente in Siargao Island in Surigao del Norte have surrender, the Department of Justice (DOJ) said on Wednesday, Feb. 15.

With their surrender, the trial court can now have jurisdiction over their persons and the case can now proceed, it said.

Murder and planting of evidence charges were filed in 2022 before the Surigao del Norte regional trial court (RTC) against PCapt. Wise Vicente B. Panuelos, PSgt. Ronel A. Pazo, and PSgt. Nido Boy E. Cantos – then members of the Gen. Luna town’s police force.

“It was on Feb. 9, 2023, that the three (3) policemen submitted themselves and surrendered to the DOJ. They were escorted by Brig. Gen. Romeo M. Caramat and presented to Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin C. Remulla,” the DOJ said.

“We are now able to move forward and try the case and deliver justice in a case that has transcended boarders,” Remulla said.

Lafuente was a businessman and a surfer based in Siargao Island. He was marked by law enforcement agencies as “a drug lord.”

A DOJ panel of prosecutors conducted the preliminary investigation on the charges of murder and planting of evidence filed by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) against the three suspects.

The three policemen claimed that Lafuente is the number one drug personality in the Caraga Region and that they were forced to defend themselves when he drew a firearm during an anti-illegal drugs operation in Siargao Island on Jan. 8, 2020.

They also claimed that a .45 caliber pistol and cocaine weighing 8.3326 grams were recovered from Lafuente following the gunfight.

“However, after the evaluation of the evidence submitted by the National Bureau of Investigation, the Panel of Prosecutors found that there is sufficient ground to charge respondents with Murder and Planting of Evidence under the Comprehensive Firearms and Ammunition Regulation Act of 2013,” the DOJ’s Office of the Prosecutor General (OPG) said in a statement issued last year.

“Although there were no eyewitnesses in the killing of Diego Lafuente, the recommendations of the panel of prosecutors were based on the SOCO (Scene of the Crime Office) report and forensic results that disproved the claim of respondents of a shootout,” it pointed out.

It said the physical evidence shows that “the placement of the fired cartridge cases (FCC) from the service firearms (9mm) of PCapt. Panuelos and PSsgt. Cortes and the FCCs from the alleged firearm (Cal. 45) of Diego Lafuente were in close distance with each other, found in a triangular area.”

If indeed there was a shootout, the OPG said “the placement of the FCCs should be in opposite sides.”

“Moreover, the investigation shows that after Diego Lafuente jumped over the perimeter wall, he was shot by PSsgt. Cortes as evidenced by a 9mm FCC found underneath the ground located near the area where Diego Lafuente was lying,” it said.

“The crossmatching examination revealed that the 9mm FCC matched with and was fired from the firearm of PSsgt. Cortes,” it added.

TAGS: #DOJ #Diego Bello Lafuente #Siargao Island