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SPECIAL REPORT 3 Tayabas cops stage-manage a double ‘hits’

Mayor Gayeta (center, in white) at the press conference at his son’s funeral wake. Beside him are his wife, Christian’s wife and son, vice mayor Alex Tolentino, and lawyers Crisanto Buela and Russel Miraflor. (JOHN BELLO)

by John A. Bello

TAYABAS CITY - It was an elaborate plot out of a whodunit novel or an eerie, horrific scene straight out of an FPJ movie or any police-crime flick for that matter. 

Here is a rough reenactment narrative story which started at about 11:30 evening on Wednesday, March 13 with a Comelec-PNP checkpoint in Bgy. Angustias in Tayabas city. There is a gun ban in effect as it is election period for the midterm elections on May 13 and the campaign for the senatorial and partylist candidates has already started a month before in February. A motorcycle-riding tandem was approaching the checkpoint and three policemen manning it stood alert and proceeded to inspect the motorcycle riding duo.

“Baba, baba muna kayo!” barked an order from one of the policemen at the checkpoint. The motorcycle stopped and the 2 riders got off and were frisked and found out to have been armed with .22 cal. pistol and .45 cal. revolver. The other policeman immediately radioed to their headquarters to inform their police chief, Supt. Mark Joseph Laygo. At about 11:40, Laygo arrived with 2 of his trusted men – PO3 Robert Legazpi and PO2 Lonald Sumalpong. The three policemen loaded the two motorcycle riders into an Asian Utility Vehicle and handcuffed.

The two motorcycle riders were later identified as Christopher Manalo, 38 and Christian Gayeta, 21, son of Sariaya Mayor Marcelo Gayeta.

A sinister plot was hatched and forthwith executed with the duo ending up dead, shot up with bullets on their bodies front and back.

Based from the report issued by Laygo, it was about 4:05 in the morning of Thursday, March 14, when Tayabas city police hotline received a message that two men riding a motorcycle shot two times at a gasoline pump attendant at PTT Gasoline Station in Bgy. Baguio. He was later identified as Michael Necesito, 20, a resident of Bgy. San Isidro, Zone 1. He narrated, according to police report, that after loading up the motorcycle with gasoline the two riders drew their guns and ordered him to lie down on his stomach and shot at him, presumably to scare him and avoid paying. Luckily, he was not hit.

Upon the distress call coming from the PTT gas station, the policemen immediately responded riding aboard their PNP mobile car but before they reached the gasoline station they sighted two men riding a motorcycle. The policemen said they were trying to stop the motorcycle riders who met them with gunshots so they responded right back and gunned down the two motorcycle riders.

The Tayabas city police report clearly indicated it was a shootout that happened on the early morning of Thursday.

NBI report

Based from the report of the National Bureau of Investigation-Quezon provincial office headed by Dominador Villanueva, it was not a shootout but a rubout.

On Monday, March 18, the three policemen allegedly involved in the shootout turned themselves in to Villanueva and executed their joint statement about the incident. They were PO3 John Siman, PO1 Perry Malabaguio and PO1 Allan Ricamonte, assigned at the Public Assistance Center. They were accompanied by their legal counsel, Russel Miraflor, and they executed an extrajudicial confession naming Laygo as the one who ordered the killing of Gayeta and Manalo on Thursday morning.

Based from the testimony of the three policemen to the NBI, Gayeta and Manalo were arrested around 11p.m. on Wednesday, Mar. 13, at the police checkpoint along Maharlika Highway in Bgy. Calumpang.

It would later be revealed that Legazpi and Sumalpong would wear the clothes taken from Gayeta and Manalo before they boarded the duo’s motorcycle and headed to PTT Gasoline Station presumably to mislead and make it appear to Necesito, the gasoline pump attendant, that Gayeta and Manalo were indeed the ones who came and loaded up with gasoline.

Laygo later made Necesito his eyewitness to buttress his allegation in his police report that it was a shootout that occurred on Thursday morning.

In their affidavit, Malabaguio and Ricamonte claimed that Laygo ordered them to hand their pistols to PO3 Robert Legazpi and PO2 Lonald Sumalpong.

“Inutusan po kami ni Sir Laygo na barilin sina Gayeta at Manalo pero nang tumanggi po kami ay inutusan niya kami na iabot namin ang aming mga baril kina Legazpi at Sumalpong. Pagkaabot po namin ay tumalikod na kami.”

Christian Gayeta’s wake

At past 2pm on Thursday, March 21, at the funeral wake of his son, Mayor Marcelo Gayeta was flanked by his wife and his son’s wife and son, his lawyer, Atty. Crisanto Buela, vice mayor Alex Tolentino and Miraflor at the brief press conference held before the mass.

Visibly shaken, speaking haltingly and almost in tears before the media and hundreds of supporters and sympathizers, the mayor called on PNP chief Oscar Albayalde and PNP Calabarzon regional director Edward Carranza to help in the arrest of the perpetrators to his son and his driver’s murder and to give justice to their tragic deaths. After almost a week since the killing of his son and the latter’s driver, none of those responsible have yet been arrested.

“Ipakita ninyo na hinuhuli ninyo ang may kagagawan; sana’y makita ko na nakaposas sila at kung di ninyo kaya ay umalis na kayo diyan,” the mayor said referring to Albayalde and Carranza.

He stressed that it was not his son and his driver who supposedly held up the gasoline pump attendant at the PTT gasoline station but Legazpi and Sumalpong who had worn the clothes of the victims and rode their motorcycle to load up at the gasoline station. Later, he said, the gasoline pump attendant, was called to identify the two men who ordered him to lie down and shot at him.

Necesito, according to Laygo’s police report, claimed that the victims did not pay P100 for the gasoline.

Mayor Gayeta asked: How would his son refuse to pay P100 for the gasoline when in fact he lost P30,000 cash and his three cellphones in the tragic police operation?

He said he often told his son and his sisters to live humbly and have a low profile as children of a public official.

“Huwag ninyo ipagyayabang na kayo’y anak ng mayor kaya hindi siya nagpakilala na siya’y anak ko hanggang sa kanyang kamatayan,” the mayor said, his voice breaking.

Laygo, De Guzman relieved

To insure fair and impartial investigation, on Monday, March 18, Quezon police provincial office head, Senior Supt. Osmundo de Guzman relieved Laygo who was replaced by police Supt. Roderick Tonga. Also relieved with Laygo were Siman, Malabaguio and Ricamonte. They were temporarily assigned at the Provincial Holding Administrative Section at the QPPO headquarters in Camp Nakar, Lucena city.

De Guzman said the relief of the four policemen does not mean they have committed wrongdoing in the incident and that it is only a preventive measure to pave the way for a thorough investigation being conducted by the Provincial Investigation and Detective Management (PIDM) under Chief Insp. William Angway.

The following day, it was De Guzman himself who was relieved by Calabarzon police regional director Carranza who said the order came from Camp Crame. He was replaced by Senior Supt. Joseph Arguelles as officer in charge.

Carranza said de Guzman’s relief was a result of his failure to supervise his personnel in the field and to order the PIDM to conduct an immediate investigation on the incident ahead of the NBI intervention on the case. He added that there were some lapses on the part of the QPPO in handling the case prompting Mayor Gayeta to seek NBI assistance.

Laygo’s relief led to his disappearance along with his two trusted men, Legazpi and Sumalpong. Four days more would pass before the trio showed up at the Police Regional Office 4-A on Friday, March 22.

Laygo linked Mayor Gayeta and Cong. Alcala as drug protectors

The three policemen all denied motive or involvement to the killing with Laygo even linking mayor Gayeta as drug protector and Quezon 2nd district Cong. Vicente ‘Kulit’ Alcala as conspirator.

“Di ko kilala si Mayor Gayeta at wala akong personal na galit sa kanya. Nagpunta ako sa Sariaya at pinagtanong-tanong ko ang pagkatao niya. Si Mayor Gayeta ay protector ng droga kasabwat niya si Kulit Alcala at itinatago niya ang mga high-value targets ng Sariaya,” Laygo said.

Mayor Gayeta firmly denied Laygo’s accusation:

“Ang makakapagsabi niyan ay ang mga kababayan ko sa Sariaya na ako’y kelanman hindi po na-involved sa ipinagbabawal na gamot at yan ay makasisira sa isip ng kabataan. Ako po ay naniniwala na siya’y litong-lito na dahil sa kanyang ginawang karumal-dumal kaya kung anu-ano na po ang kanyang naiisip.”

Laygo, Legazpi and Sumalpong charged by NBI

On Saturday, Laygo, Legazpi and Sumalpong - accompanied by Villanueva, Arguelles along with heavily-armed police escorts - were brought to the Office of the city Prosecutor Alfredo Juarez around 10am in Lucena city for inquest proceedings.

Juarez ruled that the filing of charges be held in abeyance and gave the accused policemen five days to file their counter affidavit.

Arguelles said the trio will be temporarily detained at the headquarters of Quezon Police Provincial Mobile Force Company in Camp Dolor, Sariaya.

Gayeta expressed relief seeing the accused handcuffed and detained and their case is being pursued against them.

“Dahil sa nangyayari ngayon ay bahagyang nabawasan ang galit sa aming dibdib at gumaan kahit paano ang bigat ng aming pakiramdam. Salamat sa Diyos at sa mga tumulong sa amin para makamit ang hinihingi naming katarungan,” the mayor said.

(With a report from Gemi Formaran, People’s Journal news correspondent and Bong Rivera, Pilipino Mirror news correspondent)

Christian Gayeta  rests in peace inside his coffin at their home in Bgy. Mamala, Sariaya. (JOHN BELLO)
 Accused Supt. Laygo (right), PO2 Sumalpong and PO3 Legazpi at Tayabas City Prosecutor's Office.
(Photo by Gemi Formaran)

Sariaya mayor Marcelo Gayeta gets a comforting hug from a friend at the funeral wake of his son,
Christian.(JOHN BELLO)