Suspects or fall guys councilors aides tagged in mandurriao ambush

BROTHERS Julius and Roy de Los Reyes, security aides of Iloilo City Councilor Plaridel Nava, inside a police car after they were arrested at the City Hall afternoon of Jan 7, 2019 for the murder of Mercedes Nava Erwin Fontillas on Jan 4 in Mandurriao district. (Jennifer P. Rendon)

ON JANUARY 6, 2019, Senior Superintendent Martin Defensor, Iloilo City police director, was every bit uneasy as investigators were still in the dark regarding the murder of Mercedes “Ging-Ging” Nava and her companion Erwin Fontillas two days before.

Apparently, pressure was mounting on the Iloilo City Police Office to solve the deaths of Mercedes Nava, a cousin of City Councilor Plaridel Nava; and Fontillas who the eighth and ninth fatalities of motorcycle-riding suspects (MRS) since Sept. 7, 2018.

The soft-spoken Defensor said he will just pray as they try to crack the case.

“Malay mo, mahulog na lang sa langit ang mga kasagutan (Who knows, the heavens might provide the answers),” he said.

His prayers were answered hours later.

Defensor revealed that on Sunday afternoon, two witnesses pointed to two brothers as the possible assassins of Mercedes and Fontillas.

Police officers wasted no opportunity and by Monday afternoon, they arrested Julius and Roy de Los Reyes, who worked as security aides of Councilor Plaridel Nava.

The delos Reyes brothers were collared inside Nava’s office at the Iloilo City Hall.

Defensor led a team who apprehended the two suspects, sans a warrant of arrest.

“It was still part of our hot pursuit operation,” he said.

Defensor’s team also confiscated three caliber .45 pistols and a hand grenade from the two suspects.

One of the two witnesses were the victims’ companion when they were ambushed past 11 a.m. of Jan. 4 at Barangay Calajunan, Mandurriao, Iloilo City.

Another witnesses claimed to have seen the two suspects near Mercedes’ house on Mejorada Street in Barangay Oñate-de Leon, Mandurriao prior to the killing.

It remains uncertain how the witnesses identified the delos Reyes brothers amid earlier reports that the gunmen were wore surgical masks and crash helmets to hide their faces.

If Councilor Nava’s camp files a case against them, “that’s their right. We would face it,” Defensor said.

Police are checking the two suspects’ background. There were reports that Julius was one of the suspects in the Sarabia Pawnshop and Jewelry heist on January 2013.

But the case against him was dismissed.

Julius and his slain brother, Senior Police Officer 1 Rex delos Reyes, were also tagged in the killing of PO1 Frederick Capasao on Oct. 13, 2007.

SPO1 Rex delos Reyes was gunned down on Jan. 3, 2014 inside a beach resort in Hinigaran, Negros Occidental.

Rex had been implicated in robbery hold-ups and the illegal drug trade prior to his death.



Nava said he already expected the arrest of his trusted aides.

He said he was used to the situation where his allies and friends at the receiving end of trumped-up charges.

Following Mercedes’ killing, Nava said he warned his personnel to be extra cautious since they might become easy targets of blame.

“I just repeatedly advised them to surrender and never resist arrest,” he said.

Nava made mentioned that some persons then employed by slain Western Visayas drug lord Melvin Odicta Sr. might be targeting them.

“Clearly, they are fall guys,” he said.

Nava said he was in his office when police arrested the delos Reyes brothers.

He questioned Defensor for arresting the duo without any warrant from the court.

“The incident happened three days ago. I don’t think it will be considered a hot pursuit operation. In fact, they were just here. They are not hiding,” he said.

The arrest, Nava said, is part of the pattern of events he earlier divulged. He assured that they will fight the charges squarely.

He said footages from the closed circuit television (CCTV) cameras would prove that the brothers were unarmed and that the guns and grenades were “planted.”

He said the videos would show that his security aides entered the Iloilo City Hall premises with their shirts tuck in their pants.

“They were not carrying any bags. So, where would they put the three firearms and a hand grenade?” he said.

Nava claimed that the evidences, especially the grenades, were planted on the two to make sure that they could not post bail because of the gravity of the charges.

“Why would I allow my personnel to carry three unlicensed firearms when I have two licensed firearms complete with a permit to carry. I have two children with me. I wouldn’t allow them to bring a grenade,” he said.

It appears now that Defensor fell into the trap of whoever instigated and orchestrated Mercedes’ killing, Nava said.

“But my personnel are innocent. We will fight this to the end. We wouldn’t be intimidated since we know we are on the right,” he said.

Nava said a battery of lawyers will help the delos Reyes brothers in filing counter-charges against policemen.

“We will see them in court. There, we would know if the witnesses ended saw what they allegedly confessed to policemen,” he said.



Nava also accused Defensor of arrogance when the latter allegedly parried his arm.

“He treated us like a drug lord of criminal. But we will not back down,” he said.

Nava said he will seek ballistic examinations on the guns to prove his personnel’s innocence.

Defensor denied Nava’s claims saying their conversation was very cordial before he arrested the delos Reyes brothers.

“When we entered his office, he even greeted me,” he said.

Shortly into their arrival, Defensor said one of his personnel advised him on the presence of the suspects. He then allegedly informed Nava of their purpose.

When Nava asked on what grounds, “I told him that I would explain to him at the police station but we have to bring first the suspects,” he said.

Because the delos Reyes brothers were stocky men, Defensor said they had physically subdue them.



Over the weekend, Nava denied having a hand in the killing of Mercedes Nava despite their bitter rift.

After all, “she’s a Nava, and she’s still a family to me,” he said. Their fathers are brothers.

The councilor said he could not even imagine ordering the death of a relative no matter how bitter their disputes are.

Councilor Nava’s name was tagged in his cousin’s death after a sister of Mercedes claimed that the councilor is her only enemy.

“That’s a reckless statement. Why? I couldn’t even remember that we had a confrontation,” Councilor Nava said.

He even urged police to focus on hunting for the real killers.

“To my mind, this a grand design and grand scheme where she was used. This is highly-financed and that she could be later killed to discredit us,” he said.