Assassins on bike strike once more councilors cousin pal gunned down in broad daylight ambush

A SCENE of the crime operative gathers evidence from the black pickup truck of Mercedes Nava who was gunned down at Barangay Calajunan, Mandurriao, Iloilo City morning of Jan. 4, 2019. (Jennifer P. Rendon)

“RIDING-in-tandem” gunmen struck anew in Iloilo City. This time around, they killed a 66-year-old a woman and her 42-year-old companion.

The victims are Mercedes Nava, a resident of Mejorada Street at Barangay Oñate-de Leon, Mandurriao; and Erwin Fontillas of Barangay Airport, Mandurriao.

Nava is a cousin of Iloilo City Councilor Plaridel Nava while Fontillas is a member of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning, queer (LGBTQ++) community.

The shooting happened in a narrow road at Barangay Calajunan, Mandurriao around 11:42 a.m. of Jan. 4, 2019.

The victims and two minors were onboard a Mitsubishi Strada pick-up with Nava behind the wheels and Fontillas on the front passenger seat.

Witnesses said the victims were in the area to return empty cases of softdrinks and chairs they borrowed from Nava’s friend. The items were used during the Christmas party of LGBTQ group JS Amazing Organization a few days ago.

Nava was allegedly executing a U-turn when two motorcycle-riding men flagged her down.

The back rider alighted from the bike, went near the driver’s side, and started firing a handgun.

“From the looks of it, the only target was Nava,” said Chief Inspector Marlon Valencia, Mandurriao police chief.

Fontillas was hit as he was seated beside Nava.

The motorcycle-riding suspects (MRS) immediately fled while the two victims were brought to the nearby Western Visayas Medical Center. Both were declared dead on arrival.

Nava suffered gunshot injuries on the mouth and left ear while Fontillas had multiple gunshot wounds on his chest and abdomen.



Senior Superintendent Martin Defensor, Iloilo City police chief, said Nava was not on the police watch list of illegal drug personalities.

However, her son had been a subject of an anti-drug raid of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA).

While Nava was not personally involved in illegal drugs, Defensor said she had business with the late Meriam Odicta, wife of slain suspected Western Visayas Drug lord Melvin Odicta, Sr.

“They used to have dealings over their jewellery business,” he said.



Defensor said they are looking at two major angles behind the killing.

“We learned na marami palang utang si Mercedes Nava. In fact, she was a respondent to at least 10 estafa cases,” he said.

Another major angle was her public rift with her cousin, Iloilo City Councilor Plaridel Nava.

Defensor said Mercedes Nava is being blamed for the councilor’s purported disbarment.

She also stood as witness in a case against her cousin councilor.

A few weeks back, she again made headlines after testifying that the signatures affixed on manifestos opposing the franchise renewal of Panay Electric Company (PECO) were forged.

Nava claimed in a radio interview that Dr. Marigold Gonzales, daughter of Pacita Gonzalez, Councilors Joshua Alim and Plaridel Nava and Presidential Consultant for Western Visayas Jane Javellana ordered them to fake the signatures.

According to their separate manifesto, almost all of the 27,000 signatures presented by Alim and Nava to the Senate and the House of Representatives were forgeries.

“Unknown to the public, almost all of these signatures were fake and were prepared overnight, and by only a handful of people. Only around 3,500 signatures by the team of Councilor Alim, Councilor Nava and Javellana after a month or two of gathering signatures,” read part of the manifesto.

The group then sought the help of Dr. Gonzales where she gave her staff two days to gather more than 20,000 signatures.

“Acting upon the direct and express instructions given to us by their group and Dr. Gonzalez, we prepared the signatures of fictitious persons to make it appear that there were thousands of persons who joined their cause. After affixing about 24, 000 plus fictitious signatures, we then submitted the documents to the office of Councilor Alim and the signatures now totaled more than 27,000,” the manifesto added.

“We are investigating every angle that comes to our attention,” Defensor said.



The deaths of Nava and Fontilla adds to  the number of unsolved killings involving motorcycle-riding suspects since  September 2018.

But unlike Nava, the previous victims were linked to the illegal drug trade.

The latest was Nestor Piagola, 33, of Barangay Zamora-Melliza, City Proper, Iloilo, who was gunned down near Iloilo Terminal Market in Barangay Rima, City Proper district on Nov. 24, 2018.

Piagola was the seventh fatality of MRS killings since Sept. 7, 2018.

And just like the six previous victims, Piagola was also linked to illegal drugs.

He was a Tokhang surrenderer while his father is a convicted drug personality and is now serving his sentence at the New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa.

Defensor earlier admitted that they have a difficulty solving the incident because of lack, or absence, of witnesses that could identify the assailants.

Defensor said they must come up with solid and credible leads to solve the crimes.

Four days before Piagola’s death, a retired policeman was also gunned down at Barangay Villa Anita, City Proper.

Ronaldo Alag, who held a rank of Senior Police Officer 1 (SPO1) before retiring from the PNP, was peppered with bullets in broad daylight.

There’s also the case of Marvin Vasquez, 34, of Zone 3, Barangay Bakhaw, Mandurriao, who was also peppered with bullets at Barangay Taft North on Nov. 7.

Also, a barangay tanod who surrendered through Oplan Tokhang was gunned down in broad daylight at Barangay Calubihan, Jaro, Iloilo City on Oct. 5. Neil Resma, 38, was washing his motorcycle around 9:15 a.m. when two motorcycle-riding persons approached and shot him with a handgun.

On Sept. 7, two Tokhang surrenderers were killed in a span of 10 hours.

Riding-in-tandem gunmen also sprayed bullets at Rolando Puda and Don Azucena.

Azucena, 39, was killed by still unidentified suspects at Barangay Calumpang, Molo, Iloilo City at around 9:25 a.m. He died on the scene from multiple gunshot injuries on the body and head.

Meanwhile, Puda, 41, was killed near his house at Barangay Ingore, La Paz.

Four days later, a tricycle driver was also assassinated around 5 p.m. at Barangay Tacas, Jaro District.

Gerardo Mamarion, 25, was riddled with bullets several meters away from their house