Police yet to identify motive in Pangasinan ex-guv’s ambush

LINGAYEN, Pangasinan — The Philippine National Police’s Special Investigation Task Group formed to probe the ambush on former governor Amado Espino Jr. (SITG Espino Jr.) is looking into all angles including “persons of interest” to identify the motive behind the incident.

“Issues are looked into as part of the real motive that we are investigating, including politics, business rivalry, personal grudge,” Police Regional (Ilocos) Director, Brigadier Gen. Joel Orduña said in an interview Monday.

He added “we will not be concentrating on drugs, but again all angles are looked into.”

Orduña disclosed the owners of the abandoned vehicles, suspected to be used by the assailants on the ambush of Espino and his companions, were already identified and subpoena were served to them.

“The Hyundai Elantra, which was recovered loaded with high-powered guns at Barangay Cobol San Carlos City hours after the incident, was originally owned by Marivic Villanueva. It was, however, sold to two more persons before it was presently owned by Jewel Castro,” he said.

Photo by April Montes of PIA Pangasinan

Orduña said the alleged owners have presented a copy of deed of sale but these are still subject to verification.

Authorities also learned that the conduction sticker of the Elantra is fake.

The Ford Everest, which was recovered in Barangay Pasima Malasiqui town also loaded with high-powered guns, was learned to be owned by a certain John Paul Regalado, Orduña said.

Meanwhile, the SITG Espino Jr. has “persons of interest” in the investigation.

“We cannot yet divulge all the details though, I hope you understand,” Orduña said.

He added that Anthony Columbino, one of the drivers of Espino during the ambush, has turned over himself to the authorities.

Columbino was unharmed and fled after the incident due to fear, Orduña said.

“He is under the custody of San Carlos City police and he still needs to explain. Initially when he was asked, he said it was out of fear that’s why he fled,” he added.

The guns recovered in the suspected get-way vehicles of the assailants are undergoing forensics.

Espino is in stable condition after the September 11 ambush wherein he was wounded in his right stomach and hand, while one of his police aides Staff Sgt. Richard Esguerra died on the spot.

His driver Agapito Cuison, who was able to drive Espino to a nearby hospital despite gunshot wounds, died on Thursday while being treated at the hospital; while Staff Sgt. Jayson Malsi and Kevin Marfori are still recovering at the hospital.

“We have provided needed security to Espino after the incident,” Orduña said, adding that prior to the ambush, the police provided security aides to Espino after receiving death threats.

Orduña said they are working on solving the crime as soon as possible. Hilda Austria / PNA – northboundasia.com