Forensic investigation has found evidence that the two gang members who were killed while under police custody in Laguna may have been murdered instead of accidentally shot, according to the Department of Justice (DOJ).
Ricky Cadavero, head of the notorious Ozamiz group that has been linked to mall and bank robberies in Metro Manila, and gang member Wilfredo Panogalinga Jr. were earlier reported to have allegedly attempted to grab the guns of their escorts during an ambush four days ago in Cavite.
Asked by reporters Friday if the killing was a rubout, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said: “There are indications of that but I am not prepared to say it categorically.”
In a report aired on GMA’s “24 Oras” news program, a forensics expert from the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) said a re-autopsy of the victims’ bodies show they did not sustain any external injuries during the incident.
“No injuries were seen on the extremities that would indicate a struggle took place,” said Dr. Antonio Vertido, head of the NBI Medico-Legal team from Region 4A.
According to the forensic report, the gunmen were less than two feet away when they shot Cadavero and Panogalinga. The trajectory of the bullet was also downward.
The two gang members were killed while they were being transported to Camp Vicente Lim in Laguna from Cavite, where they underwent inquest proceedings.
The incident occurred hours after Interior Secretary Mar Roxas announced that the two gang members, who escaped from separate jails last year but were recaptured last Friday in Cavite, would be turned over to the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) in Muntinlupa.
It remains unclear why the two men were brought to Cavite instead, and why the police were bringing them to Laguna.
The chief of the Police Regional Office IV-A (Calabarzon) has been relieved of his command and the 13 policemen who served as escorts of Cadavero and Panogalinga during their transport have been relieved from their posts following the killings, according to Roxas.
Witnesses not missing
Meanwhile, De Lima corrected earlier reports that five witnesses who saw the shooting incident involving the Ozamiz robbery group members are missing, saying that the DOJ is aware of their whereabouts although they are constantly changing their hiding places to avoid detection.
The Justice Secretary said the DOJ is considering putting the five people under the Witness Protection Program for their safety.
“Kahapon ‘ata palipat-lipat sila kung saan, kaya napabalita na nawawala. But the CHR (Commission on Human Rights) and the NBI know where they are, so they’re monitoring them,” she said.
De Lima said she is encouraging the CHR to gain regular access to the witnesses, so they could become more cooperative in the investigation. – Xianne Arcangel/YA, GMA News