Just days after Jimmy Largo was arrested, another suspect in the killing of Ermita Barangay Captain Felicisimo “Imok” Rupinta falls into the hands of the Police Regional Office in Central Visayas (PRO-7).
Jordan Gera, 39, was arrested by elements of the Regional Special Operations Group (RSOG) past 1 p.m. yesterday at his house in Barangay Jugan in Consolacion town.
Chief Supt. Jose Mario Espino, PRO-7 director, said that Gera was allegedly the second gunman in the killing of Rupinta, who was ambushed and killed in Liloan town in northern Cebu on November 23.
“He (Gera) was positively identified by our witnesses na kasama siya ni Largo nung sinusundan nila si Kap Imok,” Espino said.
(Gera was positively identified by our witnesses that he was with Largo when they were tailing Barangay Captain Rupinta).
Gera, like Largo, is also a vendor at the Carbon Public Market, indicating that Rupinta’s killing could be related to the slain village chief’s disagreement with fish vendors operating along Calderon Street at the Carbon market area.
Espino, however, would not say what could be the reason behind Rupinta’s killing except that it was related to his being a barangay captain in Ermita, Cebu City.
Espino has likewise revealed that they already have the identity of the mastermind in Rupinta’s ambush-slay but said it was still not time to reveal the person’s name.
To recall, Rupinta had a run-in with fish vendors in Carbon market, particularly those belonging to the Calderon Barracks Association (CBA) that has at least 90 members, after they were ordered by the village chief to move to the back of the market in October.
The fish vendors had protested the move, saying they lost precious customers because of the order.
These were the same fish vendors who also protested the daily “arkabala” (fee) of P10 collected from them by the Ermita barangay government. The barangay was forced to stop collecting the arkabala after Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña declared that only the city government, not Rupinta or the barangay council, had the authority to collect such fee.
Rupinta’s decision to move the fish vendors out of Calderon Street and into the back of Carbon market was implemented without notice in late October, soon after the barangay government stopped collecting the fee.
Espino said that Gera was also identified by Jocelyn Mendoza, Rupinta’s common-law wife, and who was with the village chief during the incident, as one of the two suspects who repeatedly fired shots against the barangay captain.
Aside from witnesses, Espino said they also have footage from a closed circuit television (CCTV) camera that showed Gera with Largo along the vicinity where Rupinta was waylaid and killed.
Last Thursday, RSOG chief Supt. Reynaldo Magdaluyo presented a video footage they obtained from CCTV that showed Largo and Gera inside a convenience store located about 300 meters from where Rupinta was ambushed in Sitio Simborio of Barangay Tayud in Liloan town.
In the video, Largo arrived at the convenience store at around 7:57 p.m. or 15 minutes before Rupinta was ambushed.
Largo went inside the convenience store and bought a cone of ice cream while Gera was waiting outside the store.
When Rupinta’s car passed by the convenience store, Largo and Gera were seen hurriedly boarding separate motorcycles and followed the vehicle.
Like Largo, Gera was also an ex-convict, according to Espino.
“Isa rin siyang ex-convict at nakulong sa sala ng homicide at saka murder (He was also an ex-convict and was imprisoned for murder and homicide),” Espino added.
However, the police are yet to dig deeper into the background of Gera, particularly in relation to his criminal records.
Espino said they did not have any difficulty in identifying Gera since he is close to Largo.
“Mag best friend sila ni Largo. Kaya maraming nakakilala sa kanila (Largo and Gera are best friends. That is why many knew them),” Espino said.
Through police assets and witnesses who knew the two suspects, Espino said they easily tracked down Gera at his house in Consolacion.
Gera is also a vendor in Carbon Public Market like Largo, said Espino.
Espino said Gera had no time to flee since the operation to arrest him caught him by surprise.
“Hindi niya akalain na ikakanta siya ng kanyang matalik na kaibigan (He did not expect that his best friend would rat on him),” Espino said.
Not a killer
During Gera’s presentation at the PRO-7 headquarters on Friday, he engaged Mendoza in a heated argument after the slain barangay captain’s common-law wife pointed at him as one of his killers.
Gera, insisting on his innocence, asked Mendoza to be very sure before accusing him as one of the village chief’s assailants.
“Tan-awa akong nawong, ma’am kung ako ba. Wala ko sa panghitabo sa krimen,” Gera told Mendoza.
(Look at my face closely, ma’am and see if it were really me. I was not there when the crime happened.)
Gera, in an agitated voice, told Mendoza that she should be sure since the accusation would definitely affect his family.
However, Mendoza shouted back at Gera telling him she was sure she saw his face.
“Parehas ra ta naay pamilya. Isulti kinsa inyong mastermind kay malooy pa ko ninyo,” Mendoza shouted back.
(I also have a family. You should reveal who was your mastermind and I’ll pity you.)
The other suspects
Espino said they were still looking for two more suspects, including the mastermind.
According to Espino, the police would be filing a string of cases against the mastermind once they have completed securing sworn statements from several persons, including those from the two suspected shooters.
However, Espino still refused to divulge the identity of the mastermind, saying it was still premature to do so.
Espino admitted that they failed to locate the other suspects in the places they knew where these persons lived.
“Wala na sila sa kanilang lugar na alam natin. Pero definitely andito pa sila sa Cebu (They were no longer in the place that we went to. But definitely they are still in Cebu),” Espino said.
Espino added that the manhunt operations for the remaining suspects continue.