Suspended Iligan mayor surrenders after two months in hiding

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews/12 October) – – Suspended Iligan Mayor Celso Regencia, who was named as principal suspect in the December 11, 2014 ambush of Iligan Rep. Vicente Belmonte, has surrendered to authorities Monday morning, the National Bureau of Investigation said.

NBI regional agent in charge Alex Caburnay said Regencia surrendered to officials of the Iligan City Jail Monday morning ending almost two-months of hiding after a court issued warrants of arrest against him and ten others

“I commend the decision of the mayor to trust our judicial system by submitting himself to the jurisdiction of the court,” Caburnay said.

The Regional Trial Court Branch 44 in Initao, Misamis Oriental issued the warrants for three counts of murder and six counts of frustrated murder against Regencia; his bodyguard, Police Officer 3 Alfeo Arnoco, Amado Baller, Rogelio Pitos Sr., Romeo Suganob, Peehay Capanpagan, Julito Oros Ansad, Dodo Silvano and Rogelio Pitos Jr.

Arnoco went on AWOL and also went into hiding along with the rest of the suspects.

Several gunmen ambushed the convoy of Rep. Belmonte after it left the Laguindingan Airport in Laguindingan, Misamis Oriental en route to Iligan City last December 11, 2014.

Three of Belmonte’s bodyguards were killed in the ambush, while the congressman and five others were wounded.

Pursuit operations later arrested one of the  gunmen identified as Dominador Tumala of Osmena town, Zamboanga del Norte who provided the court with details of the ambush plans and Regencia’s alleged participation.

Before he went into hiding, Malacañang on March 2, suspended Regencia for 60 days for alleged abuse of authority after stripping Iligan Vice Mayor Ruderic Marzo of his authority to appoint casual or job order employees at the Sangguniang Panlungsod.

Regencia, elected mayor in 2013, had claimed there were “ghost employees” in the legislative branch.

The DILG in Northern Mindanao served the order on March 27 and installed Marzo as acting mayor but Regencia sought the intervention of the Court of Appeals in Cagayan de Oro to issue a temporary restraining order. The CA issued a TRO to stop the installation of Marzo after he posted a bond of P100,000.

The suspension order was eventually enforced and was supposed to have been lifted on October 27. (Froilan Gallardo / MindaNews)