“They (Vigos’ relatives) have been expecting that to happen,” said missionary priest Peter Geremiah, the Vigo couple’s spiritual adviser for more than 10 years.
The alleged killer, Jhonever alias ‘Jec-jec’ Madangguit, was reported to have been killed in a vehicular accident in Agusan del Sur on June 3 but police in Makilala said there were no bruises and he appeared to have been shot.
Madangguit was reportedly a member of the hit squad of the New Peoples’ Army who surrendered to an Army battalion in Makilala many years ago. He was also linked to the killing of a rebel returnee-turned military informant, the killing of a wealthy businessman in Makilala town in 2005 and Magpet town councilor Gerry Lingaro in 2006.
The Vigo couple was riding on their motorcycle on their way home when shot by motorcycle-riding gunmen at Apo Sandawa Homes at around 5 p.m. on June 19 last year.
George, 35, was project officer of the Mindanao Youth Leadership Program, a three-year program funded by the Consuelo Foundation, Inc. and implemented by the Community and Family Services, International (CFSI) in Barangay Liliongan, a conflict-affected area in Carmen, North Cotabato. The project George headed focused on improving the situation of the Moro, Lumad and settler youth in the area.
Maricel, 39, was communications consultant of Rep. Lala Talino and was area coordinator of SPOTS (Solar Power Technology System) of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR), a project funded by the British Petroleum, to distribute solar power to agrarian reform communities without access to electricity.
Co-founders of the Federation of Reporters for Equality and Empowerment (FREE), the two continued to do part-time media work until their death — George hosting Tingog sa Kabatan-unan (Voice of the Youth), a 30-minute radio program of the CFSI aired every
Monday noon while Macel hosted Kalihukan sa Kongreso (Congress Affairs) of Rep. Talino over DXND every Sunday noon.
Ruby Padilla-Sison, one of the couple’s friends, who is still in hiding due to threats to her life, said, “I am sad because he (Madangguit) could have spoken the truth if brought to court. He could have said his piece as to whether he was involved in the killing or not. A dead man tells no tale,” said Sison, a former broadcast journalist.
Like Geremiah and the relatives of the Vigos,’ Sison also believes Madangguit was a “fall guy.”
In fact, she said, it was extraordinary that even without proper investigation, police had come out with the cartographic sketch and the killer was already named within two days from the killing of the Vigos.
As to how Madangguit got killed, police and the suspect’s kin have different versions.
A cousin who asked not to be named said Madangguit got caught in a tragic vehicular accident along the highway in Loreto town in Agusan del Sur on June 3.
The relatives took Madangguit’s body three days later. A garbage dump truck owned by the North Cotabato Provincial Government was used to transport his body from Agusan del Sur to Barangay Garsika in Makilala.
But police officials in Makilala doubted the relatives’ statement.
Insp. Ramil Hojilla, chief of the Makilala PNP, said it was unlikely that Madangguit died of a vehicular accident because “there were no traces… no wounds that would prove that he died in an accident. Instead, we’re made to believe, by looking at some markings in his body, that he was shot. That maybe caused his death.”
A policeman in Makilala who asked not to be named said Madangguit, who was reportedly with two other hired killers, was on a gun-for-hire mission in Loreto town but their would-be victim sensed the killing and engaged them in a firefight. The would-be victim killed Madangguit on-the-spot, the policeman said.
Madangguit was buried today in his hometown in Barangay Garsika.
On June 19, relatives and friends of the slain couple will celebrate their first death anniversary.
The couple’s death was one of the cases investigated on by the Melo Commission, a body organized by the Arroyo government to probe extra-judicial killings in the country. It was also included in the cases studied by the United Nations’ Special Rapporteur on Extra-Judicial Killings headed by an Australian diplomat Phillip Alston in 2006.
“Yet, the real killers have remained scot-free. And now that Madangguit is dead, the planner or the real plotters of the couple’s slay are still off the hook enjoying liberty, while the unfortunate kids of George and Macel and the family still long for justice to be served. When Madangguit died, only part of the puzzle was cut. The killings have not yet been solved,” Sison said.