By: Ador Vincent Mayol, Benjie B. Talisic June 24,2017 - 10:35 PM

REUNITED. Reolito “Etad” Boniel, one of the three witnesses in the slay of Bien Unido Mayor Gisela Bendong-Boniel now accepted in the government’s Witness Protection Program, embraces his young daughter whom he has not seen in two weeks. Etad’s wife and four children arrived from Bohol on Saturday, June 24, 2017, and had a tearful reunion with him in Camp Sergio Osmeña Sr., the headquarters of the Police Regional Office in Central Visayas (PRO-7). It is also during this time that Etad learns his father has succumbed to a heart attack. (Story on page 2)

Their testimonies are too precious to lose.

To protect them from “external” pressures and threats, the three vital witnesses in the slay of Bien Unido Mayor Gisela Boniel have been endorsed to the Witness Protection Program (WPP) of the Department of Justice.

Senior Supt. Jonathan Cabal, head of Regional Intelligence Division in Central Visayas (RID-7), said the WPP in Cebu has agreed to take custody of Reolito “Etad” Boniel, Randel Lupas and Edgar Tapere — three workers of Bohol Provincial Board (PB) Member Niño Rey Boniel, who is considered as the prime suspect in Gisela’s death.

Amid the claim of PB Member Boniel that his wife was actually alive and just hiding somewhere, the police remained undeterred, saying there were enough witnesses who could attest that she died allegedly in the hands of her husband before she was thrown off the sea on June 7.

“They (witnesses) are qualified to be placed under the WPP. Their testimonies are very relevant and substantial to the case as they can give us a clear picture of the events surrounding Mayor Gisela’s death,” he said in an interview yesterday.

Even if authorities fail to recover Gisela’s dead body, Cabal said the testimonies of Reolito, Lupas and Tapere are enough to prove Niño’s guilt.

“Gisela’s physical body is what we lack, but the foundation and substance of the crime have already been established,” he said.

Gisela, who won as mayor of Bien Unido in May 2016, was allegedly shot dead by her husband before her body was thrown into the sea near Caubian Island in Lapu-Lapu City last June 7.

Divers have been scouring the sea between Bohol and Cebu for 14 days, but they failed to find Gisela’s body.

The search, which was halted over the weekend, will resume on Tuesday. (see separate story)

Spin doctors

In his counter-affidavit filed at the Lapu-Lapu City Prosecutor’s Office on Friday, Niño said he could not kill Gisela even if they had a spat over money and infidelity issues.

He said there is also a possibility that Gisela is still alive and may only be hiding to escape “debts of several millions.”

Cabal, however, found the defense of Niño’s camp unbelievable.

“They are claiming that Mayor Gisela is alive. These are but theatrical gimmicks to lessen the credibility of our witnesses. All of these are done by spin doctors,” he added.


It was Reolito (not Riolito as earlier reported by the police) who led authorities to the area of the sea where they allegedly threw the body of Gisela.

Reolito, 38, said he was first asked by Niño to come to the Bien Unido Double Barrier Reef Dive Camp in the evening of June 6 to operate a pump boat that he thought would go on a sea patrol.

But he was surprised when, sometime in the early hours of June 7, he saw Niño’s bodyguard carrying the body of a barely conscious Gisela into the boat. He said they were in the middle of the sea when the board member allegedly took out a gun and shot the mayor in the head.

Reolito said a rock weighing 30 kilos was tied around Gisela’s body before they threw her into the sea.

He said he did not attempt to question Niño for fear that he too would be killed.

Lupas, for his part, attested that he was ordered by Niño to help carry Gisela’s body from the dive resort to the boat. The third witness, Tapere, fetched the board member in Punta Engaño, Lapu-Lapu City, at dawn of June 7, or believed to be an hour after Gisela was killed.

Another witness is Gisela’s best friend, Angela Gamalinda-Leyson, who claimed that she was with Gisela inside the Bien Unido Double Barrier Reef Dive Camp on June 7 when Niño and and his cohorts barged into their room sometime around midnight. She said she was tasered by one of Niño’s men but saw the board member punch Gisela in the stomach before she lost consciousness.

Leyson said that she, along with her 17-year-old son, were held captive by Niño’s group before they were driven by Lupas to Tubigon town where she boarded a boat bound for Mactan Island. She then reported the matter to the Lapu-Lapu City police.

Leyson, however, was not endorsed to the WPP but was given at least two police escorts.

‘High-risk’ witnesses

Prosecutor Llena Ipong-Avila, head of the DOJ’s WPP in Central Visayas, said she has agreed to take custody of Reolito, Lupas and Tapere.

The security program, she said, will also be extended to the “nuclear family” of the three witnesses, or their wives and children.

“We will do everything to the best of our abilities to secure the witnesses. Our security personnel serve as human shield to protect them,” Avila told Cebu Daily News.

The witnesses and their families, she said, will stay in a safe house and will be provided with financial assistance. Details of the privileges are confidential.

She said the witnesses can be considered “high-risk” due to the nature of the case which involves a board member.

“High-risk witnesses are those who receive threats, and those who can easily be accessed by the opposing camp and lured with money in order to retract their testimonies,” Avila said.

“That is the lawyer’s playing field. Of course, they want to protect their clients, and so they will surely do everything (to win). I am a lawyer too. I know how lawyers work,” the state prosecutor added.

Now in Bohol

Niño was transferred on Friday evening from Cebu City to the Bohol provincial jail, where he will stay until the court resolves the charges of kidnapping and illegal detention against him.

Niño arrived at the Talibon District Jail at around 4 a.m. on Saturday accompanied by his legal counsel, lawyer Gerardo Carillo.

“I hope he will be able to rest in the Talibon District Jail which has a bigger space compared to that police stockade in Cebu City. No special treatment definitely,” Carillo said.

Niño, he said, was placed in a detention cell with at least 10 inmates.

“So far, he is okay. He is not complaining. What can we do, he is a detainee,” he said.

Niño was ordered by a judge to stay at the Talibon District Jail while the charges of kidnapping and serious illegal detention filed against him are resolved by the court.

The case is being heard at the sala of Judge Marivic Daray of RTC Branch 52 in Talibon, the same court that approved the petition for a writ of habeas corpus filed by the board member’s legal team.

Niño is also facing a separate parricide complaint, along with eight others, at the Lapu-Lapu City Prosecutor’s Office for allegedly killing his wife.

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