The National Bureau of Investigation has filed murder and frustrated murder charges against 11 persons, including five police officers and a lawyer, in connection with the ambush of a female lawyer and her companion December 21 last year, in Talisay City, Negros Occidental.
Complainant Erfe del Castillo survived despite her injuries, her fiancé, Efren Palmares Jr., a former policeman, did not survive.
Recommended for prosecution by the NBI before the Talisay City Prosecutor’s Office were Catherine Berioso-Cabuga, alias Kate Brios, Shirley Berioso, Caselyn Berioso-Ortiz, lawyer Jose Max Ortiz, Senior Supt. Francisco Ebreo, former Bacolod City Police Officer officer-in-charge, Supt. Richie Yatar, Senior Inspector Adrian Albaytar, SPO2 Joshua Barile, PO3 Ronald Ortiz, a journalist, John and Jane Does.
In a press conference yesterday, Del Castillo said that she was the target of the ambush, citing that all of the bullets were aimed at the passenger side, where she was seated.
In her sworn statement executed before the NBI Western Visayas Regional Office on Jan. 8, Del Castillo alleged that there was conspiracy to kill her and her fiancé by the actual participants of the ambush and other principals who have actually participated, induced, financed and/or cooperated thereof.
She said that the ambush was work-related and stemmed from the conflict over the properties of Catherine and her estranged husband, Francis Rey, especially the Metro Inn Hotel in Bacolod City, that led to a stand-off in Nov. 19 to 21 last year.
“My ambush is actually the culmination of the famous Metro Inn standoff,” Del Castillo said, adding, is the people who are involved during the incident are the same people who all conspired to kill me”.
“Some joined in the conspiracy to kill me for different reasons, but it all boils down to self interest, greed and money”, she said.
Ortiz, when asked for comment on the allegations against him, vehemently debunked claims of del Castillo saying “Her mind is already going berserk”.
Oritz, who is the counsel of Catherine Berioso-Cabuga, said he believes that somebody was behind del Castillo, who also served as counsel of Francis Rey, the estranged husband of Cabuga.
The other respondents in the two criminal complaints could not be reached for comment, as of this waiting.
In her sworn affidavit, Del Castillo also claimed that a bodyguard of Ortiz, whom she identified by his face, was the actual shooter holding a long firearm during the ambush.
She further claimed that Ortiz, Barile, Yatar and Albaytar and several John Does are deemed to be part of the group that allegedly planned and actually participated in the ambush, who she said, illegally entered and took over the Metro Inn Hotel November last year.
Ebreo, on the other hand, was the main man in the Metro Inn stand- off, who illegally entered and took over the hotel.
After evaluating all the evidence presented and collected by their investigators, NBI regional director Max Salvador said that there is a probable cause to believe that the persons named by witnesses as respondents have actually conspired, confederated and cooperated with one another to ambush and kill del Castillo and Palmares.
Salvador added that the acts of respondents, taken together from the time of the Metro Inn Hotel stand-off up to the time of the ambush, showed a community of purpose or design, and that is to eliminate the victims, once and for all.
The respondents were associated or inter-connected with one another by reasons of their work or otherwise, and most of them have good reasons to hate Del Castillo, he also said.
Salvador also said that the positive identification by del Castillo of the perpetrators of the ambush has actually clarified the connection between them and among all the perpetrators of the criminal act.
It is patently clear that the police officers and other civilian respondents involved in the ambush are criminally liable for murder and frustrated murder due to treachery, evident premeditation, taking advantage of superior strength, with the aid or armed men and employing means or persons to ensure impunity,” he added.*
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