Three more counts of murder were filed against Mayor Melecio Yap and several others, in connection with the spate of killings in Escalante City, Negros Occidental since 2007, Luke Espiritu, counsel of the victims, yesterday said.
This brought to six the number of murder cases, on top of three frustrated murder charges, filed against Yap since last month, in connection with the deaths of Ferjun Damalerio, Eric Matugas, Jury Alsado Sr., Johnny Urbano, as well as Armando and Joseph Lutrago, Espiritu, said at a press conference in Bacolod City.
He said the victims of frustrated murder were Valentino Pabon, Fernando Damalerio and Roger Agaton, whose cases are now pending at the Prosecutor’s Office of Escalante City.
Tess Damalerio, Rey Wasawas and Judelyn Lutrago, who also appeared at the press conference, claimed that there are continuing harassments against them by armed men in Escalante, after the May 13 elections.
Dan Pondevilla, counsel of Yap, said the overwhelming support of the people of Escalante to Mayor Yap as shown in the votes cast in his favor with a wide margin against his opponent is sufficient evidence that he is innocent of the charges.
Pondevilla also debunked claims of any “continued harassment“ saying not a single police blotter was made, so, it is pure “unsubstantiated allegations”.
Espiritu said the victims of extra-judicial killings in Escalante City, who used to be supporters of defeated mayoral candidate Santiago Barcelona, have organized themselves.
Independently, the “masa” of Escalante will stand on their own to counter what they did to them, and allow themselves to be victimized again, he said.
Aside from Yap, also included in the murder charges were suspected NPA leader Gregorio Tuayon and Bernardino “Toto” Patigas.
Ex-rebels Evonie Baynosa, with the aliases of “Morphy, Genie, Wewen, Morino, and Jean”, and Irving Taberros, alias Errol, who claimed to be eyewitnesses to the spate of killings in Escalante, also alleged that Supt. Santiago Rapiz, former Escalante police chief, retired Army Maj. Arthur Tupas, former police officer Angel Sinadjan, acted as conspirators in the killings.
Rapiz denied the accusations.
Yap had earlier said that he is not a member of the NPA, and that he does not know Baynosa and Taberros.
“We will file counter charges against the complainants and witnesses once the election is over to show that our charges are serious, and not merely for political propaganda,” Pondevilla said.
Espiritu said they welcomed the filing of counter-charges against them, as they are not afraid of the harassment, nor of being killed.
Asked why despite accusations and cases filed against Mayor Yap linking him to the extra-judicial killings, he still wins, Espiritu said the machineries of the mayor since 2007 are already in-placed. “The ordinary masses are no match to the electoral politics, which is controlled by powerful politicians.”
“We should not rely on electoral process, we have to organize ourselves,” he added.*GPB