Negros Oriental provincial police director, Col. Julian Entoma, yesterday said they are now investigating the possible involvement of a provincial government-owned car in the murder of broadcast journalist Cornelio Pepino alias Rex Cornelio last week.
He said that based on closed circuit television (CCTV) footages from the Dumaguete City government and from private entities, police investigators saw the car, a silver-gray Toyota sedan, appearing to be tailing the anchor the night Pepino was shot by two unidentified motorcycle-riding suspects on May 5 along the national highway in Barangay Daro, Dumaguete City.
Entoma said police investigators considered including the car in the investigation after checking on the CCTV footages. With the help of information technology (IT) experts, the enhanced video clips showed the vehicle with its red plate number in the same route that Pepino, along with his wife onboard a motorcycle, took in going home from the radio station he worked for.
A red plate is issued by the Land Transportation Office for government vehicles.
While not being explicit about the details so as not to compromise the investigation, Entoma said the motorcycle driver and the alleged gunman were “seen to board the sedan after the execution of the crime”, leaving behind the motorcycle they rode.
The police also failed to recover the abandoned motorcycle that evening as Entoma said they believe that the sedan was a “ploy to mislead” pursuing policemen to search for the suspects on board a motorcycle instead, rather than in a four-wheeled vehicle.
Entoma said after thorough investigation and based on intelligence reports, the police found the Toyota sedan with the red plate, whose numbers appeared to match those in the CCTV footages, parked near the Department of Education (DepEd) building in the Capitol area.
Further follow-up and tracing led the police to discover that the car “belonged” to the provincial government, he said.
The police Tuesday afternoon proceeded to the area where the car was parked but in the absence of a waiver from the provincial government through its legal office, they could not open it and check for fingerprints, Entoma said.
Yesterday, the police applied for a search warrant in court and presented the CCTV footage to support their application, he said.
In an interview with Provincial Legal Officer Louie Rastica, he said the provincial government refused to issue a waiver to the police because the Special Investigation Task Group-Pepino, led by Entoma, declined to let them see the CCTV footage for them to confirm if it was the same car that was parked near the DepEd building.
Rastica said he suggested to the police to just follow the legal process by applying for a search warrant in court.
He said they asked to see the CCTV footage because initial reports on Pepino’s murder said the suspects were riding a motorcycle.
He said they cannot just allow the police to open the car without legal basis.
Entoma said the police are now inclined towards believing that the murder of Pepino, a radio reporter/anchor of DYMD Energy FM, was work-related.
Entoma said Pepino must have crossed some people through his reports and his public affairs program, "and so we are asking the management of DYMD Energy FM to provide copies of recorded interviews and other materials that would help in the police investigation".*
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