Negros cops keep tabs of Serenio slay case

By: Glazyl Y. Masculino

BACOLOD City – The Negros Occidental Police Provincial Office (Nocppo) is closely working with the Bacolod City Police Office (BCPO) on the murder of former self-confessed Berya drug group bagman Ricky Serenio.

In a press briefing yesterday, Nocppo director Police Colonel Romeo Baleros said Police Major Joery Puerto, chief of Toboso Municipal Police Station, was tasked to coordinate with the BCPO for the possible cross matching of the recovered bullets of firearms used in the killing.

Baleros said that one of the persons of interest in the killing, identified as Allan Bustamante, 30, of Barangay Mabuhay 2, Toboso town, is associated with a certain “Kabug-ang” criminal gang, and is also one of the persons of interest for various shooting incidents in Toboso.

“We are trying to find out his link to the recent shooting incident here,” he added.

He also said that Bustamante was previously arrested in a buy-bust operation in November 2018 but was released through plea bargaining with prosecutors.

Bustamante and his companion, Joemar Dumip-ig, 30, of Barangay 14 here, were wounded when found by the police at the back of a residential village during clearing operations right after Serenio’s killing on Sept 1.

Serenio was driving a car when he was gunned down by three persons on a motorcycle along Araneta highway at Barangay Pahanocoy.

Although Bustamante and Dumip-ig suffered gunshot wounds, Police Colonel Henry Biñas, BCPO director, said they are not yet suspects in the killing and are not even in police custody because they cannot yet establish if they were indeed involved in the shooting as no firearms were recovered from them.

Biñas said they are still gathering more evidence to confirm their identities, but they are currently being guarded by the police in a hospital because of security threats.

“The two persons are not even coordinating with the police in the investigation,” he said.

Meanwhile, Biñas also said that they are verifying the identities of Serenio’s possible clients written in the notebooks recovered from the car owned by a woman.

Police also recovered bankbooks and list of code names with corresponding amounts.

But Serenio’s mother Gina said the notebooks contained the names of persons who borrowed money from her son who was in the lending business up to the time of his death.

Biñas said Serenio is considered a high value target here after he was recently monitored to have engaged in the illegal drug trade.

Moreover, police are also looking for Serenio’s two alleged companions who were with him in the car when the shooting happened to determine if indeed there was a shootout between their group and the gunmen.

Serenio, previously identified as Negros island top drug personality, was arrested in Talisay City in January 2017 for grave coercion, illegal possession of firearms, and explosives, but had been out on bail afterwards.

He made headlines after he tagged some policemen, media personalities, politicians, and other law enforcers as protectors of illegal drugs, which resulted to the relief of more than 40 policemen from the defunct Police Regional Office (PRO)-Negros island region.

Serenio’s brother Wilmar was shot dead in April 2017 followed by the murder of their father Wilfredo a month after. Both were gunned down outside their house in Barangay Singcang-Airport here.

Earlier, his family blamed his exposé on alleged drug personalities for the deaths of his father and younger brother.

Serenio’s mother asked for security assistance after the recent incident, and is willing to cooperate with them in the investigation.

Police are eyeing his previous expose on some drug personalities, and his alleged involvement in the drug trade as the possible motive behind his death, but they will explore all angles.