Allies of slain Ermita Barangay Captain Felicisimo “Imok” Rupinta are yet to be convinced that Winefredo Miro is the real mastermind behind his ambush-slay.
Barug Team Rama officials believe there is still a “bigger mastermind” behind Rupinta’s killing.
Former Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama said the group is now putting together a pool of lawyers to support the police in the case against Miro, who has been already charged by the police with murder and attempted murder cases before the Cebu City Prosecutor’s Office on Thursday.
“At the outset, there’s definitely still another boss. This is one area where the group of lawyers led by Vice Mayor Edgar Labella, we are one somehow that the boss has to be identified,” Rama told CDN in a phone interview yesterday.
Rama said he met with the group’s lawyers yesterday morning regarding the developments of the case. Among the lawyers present were Labella, Councilors Jocelyn Pesquera, Jose Daluz III and Ernesto Rama.
He said Barug Team Rama will have an active legal participation in the ambush-slay case of Rupinta especially since he had promised legal assistance to Rupinta when the latter was still alive and facing several issues, including his suspension from office and when he got entangled with vendors over collection of fees at the Carbon Public Market.
While saying she would not want to speculate, Pesquera urged the police to dig deeper into the case.
“I believe the police have to look into who the boss referred to as the boss of Miro. It’s for the police to find out. I don’t want to speculate,” she said.
But Councilor Raymond Alvin Garcia believed that Miro could not have ordered the killing of Rupinta on his own.
While he commended the police for identifying a person who allegedly orchestrated the ambush-slay, he said there must be a “financial mastermind” behind Rupinta’s murder.
“It came out in the newspaper that he (Miro) is worried that he doesn’t have money to pay for a lawyer. Assuming that, where could he get the money to pay for the shooting? That’s why I think a deeper investigation has to be made,” Garcia told CDN.
“If he (Miro) is the mastermind, I feel that there is still a financial mastermind behind this,” he added.
Miro, who is currently the operations head of the Cebu City Markets Operations Division (MOD), earlier said that he was surprised that his name was dragged into Rupinta’s murder case.
He stressed that while he and Rupinta belonged to opposing political parties, he had no personal conflict with the late barangay captain.
Miro also said that he was having problems with the case since he would have to borrow money first so he could hire a lawyer.
“It’s just so ironic that this guy, who is now being pinned as the mastermind, is a worker of the city government, and reporting directly to the mayor himself. Isn’t that ironic? His boss is the mayor. I’m not saying the mayor is involved. I’m just looking at it as an ironic situation,” Garcia said.
Osmeña, who is currently out of the country and an open critic of Rupinta, has earlier belied insinuations by his political opponents linking him to Rupinta’s ambush-slay. But Osmeña has remained critical of the slain village chief, saying the latter was an alleged drug protector, an allegation slammed by Team Rama, Rupinta’s family and colleagues in the barangay council.
For his part, Labella, who is currently the acting Cebu City mayor, said he would want to see first the documents the police have filed to the prosecutor’s office.
He said that while the police may have successfully gathered data and evidence against Miro, proving it in court is a different story.
Rupinta was on his way home to Liloan town in the evening of November 23 when he was ambushed and shot by two gunmen on board separate motorcycles. He was with his common-law wife Jocelyn Mendoza when the incident happened.
In her affidavit, Mendoza claimed that Miro allegedly “orchestrated” the killing of Rupinta taking into consideration the long standing feud between the two regarding the control of the vendors groups in Carbon Public Market.
Another witness named Rolando Pacres also issued an affidavit saying that he was approached by Jimmy Largo, one of the alleged gunmen, to kill Rupinta for a fee of P150,000.
But for Miro, it was just another normal workday yesterday as he reported to his office in the Carbon Public Market yesterday morning.
He said he signed some papers and met with some people regarding concerns on the markets from 8 a.m. until afternoon yesterday.
Even if he is facing murder charges, he said he will continue to report for work.
“That’s part sa among trabaho nga ikiha mi. Suspect pa man lang ta. Basta atubangon lang na nako (It’s part of our job that we will be sued. But I’m still a suspect. I will just face that case),” he told CDN.
Before he was linked to Rupinta’s ambush-slay, Miro said he was considering resigning as operations head of the MOD because of the death threats he had been getting from unknown people in relation to his work in the city’s premier market.
He now decided to abandon his resignation plan since there is now a pending case against him.
But Lawyer Marie Velle Abella, head of City Hall’s Human Resources Development Office (HRDO), said they received Miro’s resignation letter on December 22 and now processing his request.
City Administrator Nigel Paul Villarete said Miro’s resignation would be processed for the approval and signature of Mayor Osmeña when he gets back from his trip to the United States.
For now, Villarete said Miro will continue with his daily work.
“We have not received any official notice that he was charged, thus there is nothing to act upon. If we received any, it will be duly noted and reviewed,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Police Regional Office in Central Visayas (PR0-7) was confident that Miro will not take flight because he knew the police are monitoring his movements.
PRO-7 information officer Supt. Reyman Tolentin said Miro was being watched starting from the time that the murder and attempted murder cases were filed against him Thursday before the Cebu City Prosecutor’s Office.
“Once you are a suspect you are closely monitored,” Tolentin said.
Tolentin added it would be better for Miro to face the cases against him instead of going into hiding. And even if he would, Miro could not hide from law enforcement authorities forever.
“The process of the justice system will be working. Eventually, a warrant of arrest will be issued against him (if) he will not answer the charges against him,” Tolentin said partly in Cebuano.
Who’s the ‘boss’?
A leader of vendors group in Carbon Public Market was also convinced that someone “bigger” than Miro was behind Rupinta’s killing.
Basan Amora, Kamansi Cooperative chairman, said that while they were happy with the filing of cases against Miro, they believed there is still another person behind Miro.
“Mas maayo unta nga mapalapdan pa (the investigation) kay kami nagtuo naa pay nagpaluyo ni Miro (It is better if the police will investigate further because we believe that there is still someone behind Miro),” Amora said.
PRO-7 authorities assured that their investigation was continuing, especially since one witness had claimed that Miro has a “boss.”
Tolentin said that Rolando Pacres mentioned that there is still another person behind Miro.
“Wala pa ta kahibaw unsa nga boss ang gitukoy pero (we will not rely on the statement alone). Hopefully we will have a development kung kinsay gitukoy nga (if who is being referred to as the) boss,” Tolentin said.
Not capable of murder
In an interview with Cebu Daily News, William Miro, Winefredo’s father, belied the allegations thrown against his son.
William, who is a former barangay captain of Ermita, said that Winefredo is not capable of such crime.
“Binuang na. Siya wala nay kalibutan sa nahitabo. Dili na niya mabuhat (Those allegations are all absurd. He is innocent. He is not capable of doing such a crime),” William said.
William said their family, especially Winefredo’s four young children, were greatly affected by the allegations.
He said it was just fortunate that their schools are on a holiday break, or Miro’s kids could end up getting bullied.
William said he could not understand what prompted the camp of Rupinta to blame the latter’s murder to his son, considering that Rupinta had many enemies in their barangay.
“Daghan na siya kaaway. Dili lang mi manghilabot pero daghan na siya og kaaway (Rupinta had many enemies. We do not want to meddle but he had many enemies here),” William said.
William hoped that all allegations against his son would soon end.
Ermita Barangay Captain Mark Rizaldy Miral, who took over the post from Rupinta, said they were happy with the development but at the same time sad to know that the man accused of masterminding Rupinta’s killing is one of their constituents and was once a close friend of the slain village chief.
Miral refused to comment when asked if he believed that there is still another person behind Miro.
He said he will just let the police do their investigation and rely on their judgment.