MANILA - Three policemen implicated in the killing of a Quezon City prosecutor denied involvement in the crime, according to their counter-affidavits submitted Tuesday to the Department of Justice (DOJ).
SPO2 Rodante Lalimarmo, PO3 Arthur Lucy, and PO1 Lunar Mercado are facing murder complaint before the DOJ over the death of deputy city prosecutor Rogelio Velasco.
Velasco was driving a red Asian utility vehicle (AUV) along Holy Spirit Drive in Barangay Holy Spirit, Quezon City on May 11, 2018 when a white AUV blocked his way and 4 gunmen opened fire at his vehicle.
Velasco died at the hospital.
According to the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), Mercado was among the 4 gunmen who shot Velasco while Lucy served as a spotter onboard a motorcycle. Lalimarmo allegedly was inside the white AUV along with the other unidentified perpetrators.
The NBI said in its complaint that Mercado’s brother had illegal possession of firearms and drugs cases pending before Velasco's office.
Velasco allegedly berated Mercado the day before the shooting incident.
“Goddamit, alam mo na pulis ka! Bakit pinababayaan mo ang kapatid mo na mag-drugs?” the complaint quoted Velasco as saying.
In their counter-affidavits, the accused denied knowing each other and claimed they were somewhere else during the incident.
Mercado said he was at a police camp in Candelaria, Quezon on the day Velasco was killed while Lucy said he was in his house in Commonwealth, Quezon City and Lalimarmo in Novaliches.
Mercado also denied having an altercation with the prosecutor although he admitted approaching Velasco for advice over the case of his brother.
“...[A]ng pinaka motibo (sic) ng nagdadawit sa akin sa kasong ito ay ang diumano pagtanggi ni Prosecutor Velasco na maging bailable ang kaso laban sa aking kapatid,” he said.
(The main motive, according to the persons who tagged me in the killing, is allegedly Prosecutor Velasco’s refusal to make my brother’s case bailable.)
“Napakababaw na dahilan para patayin ang mataas na opisyal tulad ni Prosecutor Velasco lalo na alam ng lahat na kahit mawala ang nasabing piskal ay papalitan lamang ito at hindi mababago ang kaso ng aking kapatid,” he added.
(That’s a very shallow reason to kill a high-ranking official like Prosecutor Velasco especially because we all know that he can always be replaced and this will not affect the status of my brother’s cases.)
The NBI said they were able to track the movements of the suspects through closed-circuit television footage, which showed Mercado and Lalimarmo meeting at the parking lot in Quezon Memorial Circle.
The same CCTV footage also showed Lucy walking back and forth in front of the Quezon City Hall of Justice before boarding a motorcycle and tailing Velasco’s AUV, together with the white AUV.
In his counter-affidavit, Lucy denied he is the person in the CCTV, citing his heavy weight as opposed to the middle or normal physical built of the man in the footage.
Lalimarmo, on his part, said he was inside the Quezon Memorial Circle but only to talk to a potential buyer of his sports utility vehicle (SUV). He insisted there was no evidence identifying him in the crime scene.
Mercado disputed his identification in the CCTV, citing differences in height. He also claimed there was no positive identification by any witness of his supposed involvement as a gunman.
Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Peter Ong gave the complainants until March 11 to submit their reply-affidavits should they wish to refute the police officers' defenses and assertions.
Aside from the accused, 7 other perpetrators have yet to be identified and remain at large.
Velasco was the sixth of the 8 prosecutors killed during the Duterte administration, according to data provided by DOJ and the National Prosecution Service to ABS-CBN News.
Some 15 prosecutors have been killed since 1992:
1. CP Macarlo Baansag, OCP Butuan City (1992);
2. ACP Antonino Ruiz, OCP Butuan City (1998);
3. APP Julio A. Taloma, OPP Bulacan (2005);
4. ACP Godofredo Paceno, Jr., OCP Butuan City (2006);
5. PP Macadatar Marsangca, OPP Lanao Del Norte (2010);
6. PP Akilali Balt, OPP Shariff Kabunsuan (2011);
7. APP Alexander C. Sandoval, OPP Batangas (2013);
8. CP Rolando Acido, OCP Mati City (2016);
9. ACP Johanne Noel Mingoa, OCP Quezon City (2017);
10. ACP Diosdado Azarcon, OCP Caloocan City (2017);
11, APP Maria Ronatay, OPP Rizal (2017);
12. APP Raymund Luna, OPP Quezon City (2017);
13. DCP Rogelio Velasco, OCP Quezon City (2018);
14. Geronimo Marabe, Jr. (2018); and
15. ACP Maria Ann Castro, OCP Cebu City (2019).
DOJ spokesperson Markk Perete said the department has asked the NBI to assist local police in investigating these cases.
“Additional security measures, including assistance from law enforcement agencies, are being discussed to address threats on the life and security of prosecutors, and prevent similar attacks on their person,” he said.