NBI ex-chief charged for ambush-try

MANILA -- The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) filed Thursday a complaint for frustrated murder against its former director and several others who were tagged in the foiled ambush of deputy director Reynaldo Esmeralda.

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said a drug-bust operation conducted by the NBI led them to the perpetrators of the ambush, pointing at former chief Magtanggol Gatdula as mastermind.

Charged at the Department of Justice were Gatdula; businessman Tyrone Ong; retired policeman Perfecto Villanueva and eight others.

Also named respondents were Ronnie Ong, also known as “Eboy”; Ramoso Ramos, who was the driver of the escape vehicle of the suspects during the ambush; Alfredo Compoc; triggerman Teodoro Abendano; Gerry Farillon; Jose Maglalang; Gino Eustagquio; Aljun Monticlaros and Alvin Monticlaros.

Only seven of the 13 respondents are in the custody of the NBI, since they are involved in a separate case. De Lima and the NBI did not give more details about the supposed drug bust.

Esmeralda, his brother, Police Officer 3 Nilo Esmeralda, and other NBI agents were on their way home from the NBI headquarters when they were fired upon by assailants along Apacible Street in Paco, Manila last February.

The respondents for the Esmeralda ambush are facing two counts of frustrated murder under Article 248 of the Revised Penal Code in relation to Article 6; and use of illegal firearms.

De Lima said a preliminary investigation will still be conducted to determine whether there is probable cause to indict the respondents in court.

She also said it is still premature to order the arrest of both Gatdula and Ong. The testimonial evidence presented did not show that the two have direct participation in the crime.

“It was difficult for us to report since he (Gatdula) was a former NBI director but this is for the sake of truth and justice and recovering the dignity of the institution. This is not only about Esmeralda but also, this is about protecting the institution,” she said.

She said that had it not been for the testimony of witnesses who were caught in the buy-bust operation in Manila and the recovery of an Olympic Arms rifle, allegedly used by the gunman in the botched ambush, the identity of Esmeralda’s assailants would still be unknown.

“Very crucial yung statement ni Villanueva kasi siya yung nagturo at nagdetalye ng involvement ni former director Gatdula at ni Tyrone Ong sa pag-ambush kay Deputy Director Esmeralda,” said de Lima.

During the NBI drug raid, bureau agents arrested Villanueva, a former member of the Manila Police’s Security and Protection Group, and a close-in security of Ong.

In his sworn statement, Villanueva said Ong and Gatdula reportedly conspired with each other in plotting to kill Esmeralda because of the deputy director's apparent effort in stalling the payment of the NBI to the service of its NBI Clearance Operations worth P150 million.

Ong was identified with Strategic and Comprehensive Consultants Inc., a firm that was in a joint venture with the Realtime Data Management Service Inc., the service provider of the NBI in its NBI Clearance project.

He recalled Gatdula asking Ong why it was taking the latter so long to accomplish the work he asked to do. He was referring to the plot to kill Esmeralda.

Villanueva said he was asked by the businessman to look for a hitman, to plan and lead the operation.

With the help of Eboy, the retired police officer got to know and hired Abendano and his rider identified only as a certain Ricky Dacillo.

De Lima said Abendano had also been involved in the killing of the aide of Governor Ayong Maliksi.

Villanueva added that they also hired Farillon and Ramos as additional van drivers and the two Monticlaros as errand boys.

The group had attempted to assassinate Esmeralda four times, Villanueva said.

Abedano confessed that he fired 11 shots at Esmeralda’s vehicle on February 21, 2012 using the Olympic Arms HPRFL, before throwing away the first magazine and reloading one while escaping from the ambush site.

Meanwhile, Gatdula was earlier sacked from his post over his alleged involvement in the kidnapping and extortion of undocumented Japanese national Noriyo Ohara by a group of NBI mid-rank officers and civilian agents in Pangasinan last year.

Following the controversy, de Lima created a fact-finding panel that recommended that Gatdula be investigated for Ohara’s abduction, but Gatdula questioned the recommendation before the Manila regional trial court.

While the Manila court ruled in favor of Gatdula that the investigation conducted by the fact-finding probe body was unlawful, de Lima said that was cured with the filing of criminal charges by Ohara herself.

The panel composed of Assistant Prosecutors Juan Pedro Navera, Hazel Decena-Valdez and Irwin Maraya are now conducting preliminary investigation on the complaint. (ECV/Sunnex)