Police: arrest warrants served but masterminds in Esperat slay have fled

Dangane said they have organized tanod brigades to help monitor alleged masterminds Osmena Montaner, finance officer of the Department of Agriculture regional office and Estrella Sabay, regional accountant.

The two were named masterminds in the killing of Esperat by former military intelligence agent Rowie Biruar, who helped plan the assassination but later turned state witness.

Esperat, a DA chemist who turned whistleblower on corrupt practices in the regional office, was gunned down on March 24, 2005, a Maundy Thursday, while having dinner with her two young sons at their residence in Tacurong City.

Esperat wrote “Madame Witness,” a column for a local weekly, Midland Review.

As chemist employed at the DA regional office from 1987 to 2004, she discovered several cases of graft and corrupt practices involving misuse of public funds intended for use of marginalized farmers. She accused Montaner and Sabay, among others, of alleged corrupt practices.

Judge Simeon Dumdum of the Regional Tgrial Court Branch 7 in Cebu City, issued the warrant of arrest against Montaner and Sabay on February 4.

Dangane said the CIDG was the first to receive a copy of the warrant. He said the CIDG gave them a copy and coordinated with the city police’s station 2.

Dangane gave MindaNews a copy of the February 22 memorandum of Police Senior Superintendent David Yalong Ombao, regional chief of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) to the chief of the CIDG in Camp Crame, Quezon City, notifiying the latter that at around 4 p.m. that day, “joint elements of this office led by Police Officer 1 Joseph M. Perdido and Cotabato City Police Office, Police Precinct 2,” served the warrant against Montaner and Sabay “after corresponding coordination was made (with) their respective barangay chairpersons.”

“The said service of warrant of arrest, however, yielded negative result,” Ombao’s report said.

“This office is still conducting intensive monitoring and discreet surveillance to the whereabouts of the suspects and follow-up operation may follow if certainty about the location of the suspects is confirmed,” Ombao said.

The warrant was served in Montaner’s last known address at 23 Rosales Street, Rosary Heights and Sabay’s at 4 Guadalupe Street, Notre Dame Village, afternoon of February 22, 18 days after the warrant was issued.

“They were able to enter the houses of the suspects,” Dangane said. “But they (suspects)
were no longer there.”

Judge Dumdum directed the commander of the Cotabato City Police station to arrest Montaner and Sabay who are facing murder charges.

Dumdum ordered that the warrant be served “within ten days from receipt hereof and within ten days of the expiration of such period, he shall make a return to the issuing court and in case of failure to execute the same, shall state the reasons therefore.”

Through Barua’s testimony, the three other hired killers, Randy Grecia, Gerry Cabayag and Estanislao Bismanos, were convicted by Cebu City RTC Judge Eric Menchavez on October 6, 2006.

Supt. Danilo Bacas, ARMM spokesperson, told MindaNews March 6 that the Regional Investigation and Detective Management Division (RIDMD) received from the Cotabato City police station last March 3 a photocopy of the arrest warrant and that the RIDMD has directed the police chief in Malabang, Lanao del Sur and the 1505th Provincial Mobile Group there to serve the warrant. Montaner, he said, has relatives in Malabang and used to have a residence there. (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)