Cops tag as behind Mayor Aquino killing

CITING ‘weak of evidence,’ a regional trial court in Calbayog City granted the appeal of nine police officials who were all accused in the murder of Mayor Ronaldo Aquino for their temporary liberty.

Judge Maricar Lucero, the presiding judge of Regional Trial Court- Branch 41, granted the motion of the accused for bail on Tuesday (March 7), a day before the commemoration of the second death anniversary of the shooting and killing of Aquino and three others.

Last March 8, 2021, Aquino was shot to death inside his vehicle while traversing a bridge in Barangay Lonoy by a group of armed men, later identified to be policemen, on his way to attend the birthday celebration of his son, Mark.

Aside from Aquino, also killed were his driver Dennis Abayon, security escort Rodio Sario, and Clint Paul Yauder, a civilian who happened to on the area during the incident.
The slain mayor’s other security aide, Mansfield Laboni, survived the gun attack.

Each of the nine police suspects, Lt.Col. Harry Sucayre; Major Shyrile Tan; Capt.Dino Goles; Lt.Julio Armeza, Jr.,SSG Neil Cebu; SG Edsel Omega; Pat. Niño Salem; SSG Randy Merelos; and Cpl. Julius Garcia were allowed to post P120,000 bail for their temporary liberty.

All accused are currently detained at the Calbayog city district jail. They were charged for murder and frustrated murder filed by the National Bureau of Investigation.

“For failure to establish strong and convincing evidence of guilt for the crime of murder, accused Harry Sucayre, Neil Cebu, Shyrile Tan, Sandino Goles,Julio Armeza,Edsel Omega,Niño Salem,Julius Garcia, and Randy Merilos must be admitted to bail in the amount of P120,000 for each of them in each of the cases,” part of the court decision said.
The court, however, stressed that by granting bail to the accused, will ensure of their appearance during trials and for them not to commit further crimes.

“Thus, bail acts as a reconciling mechanism to accommodate both the accused’s interest in his provisional liberty before or during trial, and the society’s interest in assuring the accused’s presence at trial,” it added.

The granting of bail by the court was criticized by Atty. Alma Uy, the lawyer of the Aquino family.

Uy said that they find it shocking and disheartening that the decision came out a day before the third-year anniversary on the murder of Aquino, who was serving on his second term when he was gunned down.

“Despite (the) overwhelming evidence against the policemen accused, the judge rules to grant them bail, during pendency of trial in the murder cases. Evidence that the NBI gathered and presented in court were ignored. Witnesses had risked their lives in testifying against the accused, only for the judge to declare, that evidence is weak,” Uy said on her social media account.

“And it had to be timed with the commemoration of their death? While today, Calbayognons recall and relive the pain of the brutal murder of a beloved mayor, his killers will be set free, to dance upon his grave,” she added.

Aquino took the post as Calbayog city mayor in May 2011 after the sitting mayor at that time, Reynaldo Uy, was killed in a gun attack in Hinabangan town while attending a fiesta-related event.

The murder of Uy remains unsolved.