CIDG report clears Catamco’s escorts

KIDAPAWAN CITY  (MindaNews/22 May) — The lawyer and political advisers of Congresswoman-elect Nancy Catamco in North Cotabato’s second district claimed the investigation report of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) based in General Santos City on the  killing of a supporter of her political rival in the congressional race has “vindicated” her.

Jun Obello, Catamco’s political officer, said the four-page document released on May 19 by the CIDG-12 has proven true their earlier claims that Catamco’s security escorts had nothing to do with the May 10 killing of Johnny Magbanua, a staunch supporter of outgoing Cotabato Rep. Bernardo Pinol, Jr.

Pinol in media interviews accused Catamco’s bodyguards of  having shot and killed Magbanua on May 10 when the latter and his companions were trying to retrieve the leaflets and other campaign materials being distributed along the highways in Kidapawan City by the supporters of his rival.

But paraffin test results from the Crime Laboratory of the Philippine National Police (PNP) also in General Santos City showed Catamco’s escorts tested negative of gunpowder nitrates residue.

Catamco’s security personnel included Cpl. Wilfred Arcayna and Pfc. Aladin Lopez of the 57th Infantry Battalion and Police Officer 2 Aclan Macuse and Police Officer 1 Ronald Bation Sillote of the North Cotabato Provincial Police Office.

Reports from the CIDG-12 said that hours after Magbanua’s killing, Catamco’s bodyguards voluntarily surrendered their firearms for microscopic or ballistic exams and submitted themselves for parrafin test.

CIDG-12 regional director Sr. Supt. Pedro Austria said the empty shells they recovered from the crime scene on May 10 did not match the firearms of Catamco’s men.

At least 15 empty shells from caliber 5.56 and one slug from caliber .45 pistol were recovered from three different sites, just  a few meters away from the house of Catamco located along Mc Arthur Street here.

The CIDG-12 investigation report said that on May 11, at least 18 persons, including Catamco’s escorts and supporters and five of Pinol’s supporters, were subjected to paraffin examination by the PNP Crime Lab.

Of the 18, only one turned positive to nitrates residue, which Austria identified in his report as a certain Efren Albaera Rivera, one of Pinol’s supporters.

Citing as basis the crime sketch analysis of the Scene of the Crime Operatives (SOCO) in North Cotabato and the paraffin tests of the PNP Crime Lab, Sr. Supt. Austria concluded that it is likely that Rivera was responsible for the killing of Magbanua.

Sa tingin ko, ‘di niya [Rivera] sinasadya na nabaril at napatay niya ang mismo niya’ng kasama [It is possible that Rivera did not intend to shoot and kill his own companion],” said Austria in a radio interview.

Rivera vehemently denied the allegations saying the CIDG-12 report was released to cover-up a crime.

Rivera said he was surprised to know he tested  positive of gunpowder residue when he was not even carrying a gun at that time the incident happened.

“I was driving my motorcycle.  I had two passengers on board.  We were moving so fast at that time because we were being fired at.  So how can I fire a gun at the same time drive a motorcycle?” asked Rivera.

Pinol said he will request the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) from the Davao region to investigate the case.

“This CIDG-12 report is lopsided, highly questionable.    So I want a more credible institution, the NBI, to dig deeper on the issue so that truth would come out,” said Pinol in a radio interview.  (Malu Cadelina-Manar/MindaNews)