Vice mayor, 3 councilors in murder raps allowed to post bail

By Dolly Yasa

BACOLOD City – Mayor Ella Celestinal Garcia D. Yulo of Moises Padilla, Negros Occidental confirmed to Daily Guardian in the weekend that a Regional Trial Court in Guihulngan City, Negros Oriental ordered the release from detention of the town’s vice mayor and three other councilors after posting P200,000 bail each.

The four were implicated in the murder of then councilor Jolomar Hilario in 2019 together with former Isabela Mayor Joselito Malabor and two barangay captains in Isabela town and several others.

Mayor Garcia was also implicated in the case but she was cleared after it was established she was in jail for a different case when the alleged plan for Hilario’s murder was hatched.

The release order was issued June 25, 2022 by acting Presiding Judge Eric Anthony E. Dumpilo of the Regional Trial Court Branch 64 in Guihulngan City, Negros Oriental who earlier approved the motion to post bail by the accused after the lone witness of the prosecution recanted.

The release order was issued to the National Bureau of Investigation in Bacolod City, where Vice Mayor Ian Villafor and Councilor Jimmiedon Plaza are detained, and to the town’ s police chief where Councilors Morito Flores and Vincent Garcia are detained together with Quintin Remo Barangay Captain Fely Villaflor and her husband Jonathan who were also implicated in the case.

All the accused maintained their innocence in the crime which the New People’s Army declared was their handiwork.

Hilario was attacked inside his house in Barangay Inolingan, Moises Padilla town by about 20 armed men believed to be NPA members in March 2019.

The RTC Branch 63 in La Carlota City, Negros Occidental ordered in February 2021 the arrest of Villaflor and the three councilors as well as Jonathan and Fely and the other suspects including Malabor.

On August 23, Flores and the Villaflor couple surrendered to the town police station, where they were detained.

Four days later, on August 27, Garcia, a nephew of Mayor Ella Garcia-Yulo, also surrendered to the police.

Villaflor and Plaza voluntarily surrendered on Sept 1, 2021, to Vice Governor Jeffrey Ferrer after six months and were placed in the custody of the National Bureau of Investigation in Bacolod.

Malabor and two barangay captains of Isabela town, who were also implicated in the crime surrendered to Ferrer last Feb 10.

It could not be established, though, if they have posted bail.

Villaflor told the Daily Guardian he is thankful for the support of all the people who have helped them endure their more than one year in detention because of a crime they have nothing to do with and which he claimed is politically motivated.

Villaflor won his re-election bid in the recently concluded election while in detention together with re-electionist councilor Vincent Garcia.

But Plaza and Flores, who also sought re-election, lost their bids.