THE former punong barangay of Barangay Pali-Benedicto, Mandurriao, Iloilo City who was gunned down Tuesday evening was once tagged in the illegal drug trade.
The murder of ex-village chief and Barangay Kagawad Joel Obregon, 61, is the latest case involving motorcycle-riding assassins in the city.
Obregon had just alighted from his motorcycle around 6:55 p.m. of April 2, 2019 and was about to enter their house when the suspects peppered him with bullets.
Their neighbours rushed him to the nearby Western Visayas Medical Center where he died of five gunshot injuries two on the back and three on his chest.
Police Major Marlon Valencia, Mandurriao police chief, said the victim came from the house of Barangay Captain Alan Juarez, where he had a drink, before he was shot.
Based on police investigation, the two assailants were seen tailing the victim as he passed by a gasoline station.
They then overtook Obrego as he passed by the tanod outpost. The suspects later made a U-turn as they reached Obregons house and waited for the victim.
The back rider then alighted from the vehicle, walked near the victim, and pulled a gun.
When Obregon saw the assailant, he scampered but the gunman chased and shot him.
Obregon managed to cross the road but fell on the ground seconds later.
Investigators are still reviewing footages from closed circuit television (CCTV) cameras to have a clearer image of the suspects physical profiles.
Valencia said both assailants were wearing crash helmets.
Lights reflecting from the motorcycle also impeded the visual clarity of the footage, he said.
But the footage shows the triggerman change his pistols magazine and shoot the victim again.
The suspects reportedly fled towards Guzman Street, Mandurriao.
Valencia said Obregons family has declined an autopsy on his remains.
WHO IS JOEL OBREGON?
Obregon ran for kagawad in the 2018 barangay elections after finishing his term as village chief.
At the advent of the governments campaign against illegal drugs, authorities allegedly listed Obregon as an alleged protector. He went to the police station not to surrender through Oplan Tokhang but to deny the allegations against him.
In July 2017, then Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency 6 (PDEA-6) regional director GIL Pabilona issued a statement clearing Obregon of alleged links to the narcotics trade.
With Pabilonas statement, Obregon downgraded from the watch list status to the inactive file, which cleared him of any links to illegal drugs in the last six months to one year.
Based on the validation done by PDEA and PNP, personal interest or grudges may have led to Obregon being linked to the list of illegal drug personalities.
Obregon was also the subject of a gun raid while still serving as barangay Captain of Pali-Benedicto, Mandurriao. Except for assorted ammunitions and accessories, police did not find a gun when they searched Obregons house on Nov. 28, 2016.
Police Colonel Marlon Tayaba, then CIDG-6 regional director now Iloilo provincial police director, said the raid was an offshoot of numerous reports about Obregon’s unlicensed firearms.
“He was also reported to brandish long-barrelled guns when doing his rounds in the barangay,” Tayaba said.
Prior to the raid on Obregons house, several buy bust operations were conducted at Barangay Pali-Benedicto and neighboring areas.
“We have received information that some illegal drug traders in Bakhaw have transferred their operations in that area,” Tayaba revealed.
KILLERS ON MOTORCYCLES
Obregons killing is just one of several incidents involving motorcycle riding suspects (MRS) in the past six months.
Just like previous incidents, the assailants remain at-large.
The latest claimed the life of 40-year old Lhuil Clemente, who was gunned down while driving his motorcycle at the busy Mabini Street in City Proper district.
Clemente surrendered through Oplan Tokhang after the Molo Police Station classified him as a high value target (HVT) level 1.
Prior to that, a double murder incident also happened Jan. 4, 2019 at Mandurriao.
The incident killed Mercedes Nava, 66, a resident of Mejorada Street, Barangay Oñate-de Leon, Mandurriao, and Erwin Fontillas, 42, of Barangay Airport, Mandurriao.
Among the MRS killings since September 2018, police have identified the alleged suspects only in the cases of Nava and Fontillas.
Police arrested brothers Julius and Roy de los Reyes, security aides of Councilor Plaridel Nava.
Nava, who is seeking a vice mayoralty post, is Mercedes cousin.
But unlike the cases of Mercedes Nava, the previous MRS cases were linked to illegal drugs.
Nestor Piagola, 33, of Barangay Zamora-Melliza, City Proper, Iloilo, who was killed near the Iloilo Terminal Market on Rizal Street in Barangay Rima, City Proper district on Nov. 24, 2018.
Piagola, who was also linked to illegal drugs, was the seventh fatality of MRS killings since Sept. 7, 2018.
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.
Four days before Piagola was killed, a retired policeman was gunned down at Barangay Villa Anita, City Proper.
Ronaldo Alag, who held a rank of Senior Police Officer 1 (SPO1) before leaving the PNP, was peppered with bullets in broad daylight.
Marvin Vasquez, 34, of Zone 3, Barangay Bakhaw, Mandurriao, was also peppered with bullets at Barangay Taft North on Nov. 7, 2018.
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 Rolando Puda and Don Azucena with bullets.
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.