Contrary to his claim, murder suspect Jimmy Largo was not at his residence in Barangay Ermita, Cebu City, when Captain Felicisimo “Imok” Rupinta was gunned down last November 23.
Police investigators on Thursday presented a video footage they obtained from a closed-circuit television (CCTV) that showed Largo and another person identified as a certain “Jordan” inside a convenience store located about 300 meters from the crime scene.
In the video, Largo arrived at the convenience store at around 7:57 p.m. or barely 15 minutes before Rupinta was ambushed in Barangay Tayud, Liloan town, some 15 kilometers north of Cebu City.
Largo bought a cone of ice cream and ate it while apparently waiting for someone.
When Rupinta’s car passed by the convenience store, Largo and Jordan quickly boarded separate motorcycles and followed the vehicle.
There was, however, no video footage of the ambush.
But Supt. Reynaldo Magdaluyo, chief of the Regional Special Operations Group in Central Visayas, said the CCTV footage from the convenience store was enough proof that Largo and Jordan had something to do with the killing of Rupinta.
Like Largo, Jordan is a resident of Barangay Ermita and one of the alleged gunmen in the ambush-slay of Rupinta.
No further details about Jordan were given by the police while a manhunt operation was being conducted to arrest him and four others.
Magdaluyo, in an interview on Thursday, said that Largo could no longer claim that he was a “fall guy.”
“May evidence tayo. Nagsisinungaling itong si Jimmy Largo. Kung ano-anong alibi ang ginagawa niya. (We have the evidence. Jimmy Largo is lying, and he has been using whatever possible alibi),” he said.
“I’m telling you right now. This Jimmy Largo is not a fall guy. In fact, he is our principal suspect. And we’re consistent with our earlier pronouncement that Jimmy Largo is indeed one of the perpetrators in the crime,” he added.
Largo and Jordan were also positively identified by at least five witnesses while they were at a bingo outlet in Ermita at around 2 p.m. on November 23, about six hours before Rupinta was killed.
Magdaluyo said the two suspects apparently waited for Rupinta to head home from the Ermita Barangay Hall to a subdivision in Liloan, where the village chief lived with Mendoza.
He said the witnesses testified that Largo and Jordan quickly boarded their respective motorcycles when they saw Rupinta get inside his vehicle.
Based on their investigation, Magdaluyo said four other persons, whose identity they did not reveal, tailed Rupinta’s vehicle on board two motorcycles, while Largo and Jordan went ahead and waited at the convenience store near the ambush site.
“They knew very well where Kapitan Imok will pass. They know where to pre-position,” he said.
Magdaluyo said they already have the identities of the six suspects as well as the mastermind.
“We know them all, including the person behind the cold-blooded murder of Captain Imok, but we can’t divulge it now because there’s an ongoing investigation and we don’t want to jeopardize it,” he said.
“We’re confident that the other suspects are still in Cebu. We have tracker team to try to locate them,” he added.
Complaints of murder and attempted murder were filed against Largo at the Cebu Provincial Prosecutor’s Office last Monday.
The police also filed separate cases of illegal possession of firearms and explosives and violation of the illegal drugs law against Largo before the Cebu City Prosecutor’s Office, which has jurisdiction over Barangay Ermita where Largo was arrested.
The charges against Largo were subsequently filed in court after he decided to waive his right for a preliminary investigation which could have given him the chance to file his counter-affidavit and refute the allegations.
Facts and evidence
In an interview last Sunday, Largo denied killing Rupinta but claimed that someone earlier asked him to do so.
He said the “someone,” whom he refused to identify, allegedly offered him money to kill the barangay captain, but he rejected the request because Rupinta was a friend who had helped him.
Largo claimed he went to Aloguinsan on the day Rupinta was killed to secure a barangay clearance for one of his friends. He said he arrived in Barangay Ermita only at 6 p.m. of the same day.
When Rupinta was ambushed past 8 p.m., Largo claimed he was just inside his residence.
Magdaluyo said the CCTV footage proved Largo was lying.
“We, the police, do not engage in guesswork. We based our investigation on facts and evidence. There are just people who want to deceive us and to bring us away from the truth,” he said.
Magdaluyo said the police will do their best to arrest the other suspects.
“We won’t stop until justice will be given for the death of Captain Imok,” he said.
NBI waits for request
Jocelyn Mendoza, the common-law wife of Rupinta, meanwhile, expressed appreciation to the National Bureau of Investigation in Central Visayas (NBI-7) for its willingness to join the probe into the village chief’s murder.
“Basta ako, kung kinsa’y ganahan motabang namo nga madakpan ang main gyud, mas maayo (For me, whoever wants to help us catch the main perpetrator, so much the better),” Mendoza told Cebu Daily News by phone on Thursday.
The Cebu City Council on Tuesday passed several resolutions asking law enforcement agencies like the NBI-7, the region’s Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG-7) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) to join hands and form a Task Force Imok Rupinta to investigate and solve Rupinta’s ambush-slay in Liloan town on November 23.
NBI-7 Director Patricio Bernales said they could step in and aid the police investigation once they have received the formal request from the City Council or from any other party.
Cebu City Councilor Philip Zafra, the barangay captain of Tisa who sits in the City Council as president of the city’s Association of Barangay Councils (ABC), said he will also write the NBI to personally request the agency to investigate Rupinta’s ambush-slay.
Zafra said he could immediately make the personal request since it would take around two weeks before the formal copy of the City Council’s resolution could reach the NBI, CIDG and PNP. The resolution will still have to be drafted and signed first by Vice Mayor Edgardo Labella and Mayor Tomas Osmeña, he said.
“I can do it. The family is still busy with the burial of Kap Imok. Our priority, especially the barangay captains, is to find out who is behind this,” Zafra told CDN.
He said he has talked to the members of Rupinta’s family and his constituents in the barangay, and they were one in saying that they too want more agencies to help in the investigation.
“I welcome the gesture of the NBI. I have trust that with the establishment of a task force, we can solve the murder of Kap Imok. I believe that with the cooperation of these agencies, we can achieve justice,” Zafra said. “This does not mean to say that we don’t trust the police. We just want all enforcement units as much as possible to be involved, and part of that is the NBI,” he added.
Mendoza said a multi-agency probe will be welcome, but for now, she has to focus first on the wake and burial of Rupinta.
Rupinta’s wake is now being held at the barangay sports complex of Ermita until his burial on December 8. He will be buried at the Queen City Memorial Garden in A. Soriano Ave., Cebu City, following a 1 p.m. Requiem Mass, according to Mendoza.
Who gets the reward?
Rupinta was driving home to Liloan town with Mendoza on November 23 when waylaid and repeatedly shot by motorcycle-riding assailants in Barangay Tayud of the town, located some 15 km from Cebu City.
Less than 24 hours after, the police arrested Largo who, even as he denied his role in the crime, was positively identified by Mendoza as one of the assailants.
The Barug Team Rama members, meanwhile, have yet to agree on how and who will be given the P300,000 reward money they raised for information leading to the arrest of the suspects in Rupinta’s killing.
Vice Mayor Edgardo Labella said they were advised by the police that it was not yet the right time to hand out the reward money to the informants who have led authorities to the suspects.