A CALL FOR JUSTICE

By: Ador Vincent S. Mayol, Nestle L. Semilla December 08,2017 - 10:52 PM

Placard-bearing supporters of slain Ermita Barangay Captain Felicisimo “Imok” Rupinta who joined his burial march on Friday, Dec. 8, 2017, stop at the entrance of the City Hall Annex Building where the mayor’s office is located and hurl plastic water bottles at the building to protest Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña’s pronouncement that he was “happy” for Ermita residents that their barangay’s “biggest drug protector” was already dead.
(CDN PHOTO/JUNJIE MENDOZA)

RUPINTA LAID TO REST

Wearing shirts and carrying placards that echoed calls for justice, throngs of people showed up for the funeral Mass and burial of slain Ermita Barangay Captain Felicisimo “Imok” Rupinta.

Police said at least 7,000 people endured the heat of the afternoon sun on Friday to join the funeral procession along the three-kilometer route from the Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Parish-Recoletos in Ermita to the Queen City Memorial Garden in Barangay Carreta.

Rupinta’s silver coffin was placed on top of a cargo truck adorned with white chrysanthemums, gladioli and anthuriums.

When the funeral procession passed by M.J. Cuenco Avenue, the vehicle conked out, prompting barangay tanods to carry the casket on their shoulders while walking towards the cemetery.

A big crowd of mourners yelled “Hustisya! Hustisya!” on their way to the Queen City Memorial Garden.

The funeral march briefly stopped when some supporters of Rupinta threw plastic bottled waters at the back door of the Cebu City Hall, in an apparent show of their dislike for Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña.

Rupinta’s supporters, in many handwritten placards they carried, expressed raged over the mayor’s earlier pronouncement that Ermita was better off without Rupinta, whom he insisted was a drug protector, an allegation that the barangay captain had denied.

Rupinta was killed by motorcycle-riding assailants on November 23 in Barangay Tayud, Liloan, as he was heading home to a subdivision in the northern Cebu town with his common-law wife Jocelyn Mendoza. The two men the police have arrested have denied they were Rupinta’s killers even as authorities said there were strong evidence stock against them, including witnesses’ accounts and CCTV footages.

Still, the family of Rupinta, his allies in Barug Team Rama, the members of Cebu City’s Association of Barangay Councils (ABC) and his many supporters in the barangay said the arrest of the two suspects was not enough and that the police should find and lock in jail the mastermind in Rupinta’s killing.

Many of Rupinta’s allies had turned their ire on Osmeña, who had remained critical of the barangay captain even after he was killed.

Anti-Osmeña placards

At Rupinta’s funeral march yesterday, policemen deployed to secure the march had to pacify the crowd who claimed some employees of City Hall threw stones at them from the building’s third floor.

Many supporters of Rupinta brought with them placards that read “Justice for Kap Imok,” “Ipadayon ang nasugdan ni Kap Imok,” “Bisan patay na si Kapitan Imok, buhi pa gihapon siya sa among kasing-kasing.” (Continue the programs started by Kap Imok, Although Kapitan Imok is dead, he remains alive in our hearts).

Some posters took a jab at Osmeña for saying that he was “happy” for the people of Ermita because the barangay’s “biggest drug protector” was already dead.

One poster read: “Tomas, nalipay ka sa pagkamatay sa among kapitan. Pero kon ikaw pud ang mamatay, ang tibuok siyudad mag-party. (Tomas, you were happy over the death of our captain, but when you die, the entire city will have a party).”

Cebu Daily News tried but failed to reach Osmeña on the phone on Friday.

Amid the uproar of some of Rupinta’s supporters, Chief Insp. Jacinto Madal Jr., commander of the Carbon Police Station, said the funeral of Rupinta was generally peaceful.

Appeal for patience

Chief Supt. Jose Mario Espino, the director of Police Regional Office in Central Visayas (PRO-7), appealed to the family, relatives and supporters of Rupinta to be patient as investigators do everything to secure justice for the death of the barangay captain.

Espino said they already identified the mastermind behind Rupinta’s slay, but they could not reveal it for now while they continue to strengthen the case by gathering more evidence.

“Please be patient. We don’t want to file the case if we do not have strong evidence,” he said.

“Justice will be served. I promise that,” he added.

Many of those who joined the funeral Mass and procession for Rupinta wore white or black shirts with statements that read “You will be dearly missed. You are such an amazing person. Kap Imok Bayani.”

As Rupinta’s body was laid to rest at the Queen City Memorial Garden at around 4 p.m., white balloons were released in the air.

Among those present during the Mass and Rupinta’s burial were his common-law wife, his first wife, children and relatives.

Also in attendance were Cebu City Vice Mayor Edgardo Labella, former Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama, Cebu City Councilors Joel Garganera, Raymond Alvin Garcia, Jocelyn Pesquera, Pastor Alcover and Edu Rama; ABC-Cebu City president Philip Zafra, the village chief of Barangay Tisa; and officials of Barangay Ermita.

Rupinta’s daughter, Efe, spoke in behalf of the family after the Requiem Mass at the Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Parish-Recoletos and thanked everyone who supported them.

“You never left us especially during these times of sorrow and grief,” she said in Cebuano.

Efe also expressed gratitude to the police for arresting two of the suspects and for continuing to dig deeper into Rupinta’s death.

Police have so far arrested two suspects in the crime — Jimmy Largo and Jordan Gera. Both were identified by witnesses as the same persons who waited for Rupinta to leave the Ermita Barangay Hall and who later shot the village chief. Largo and Gera both denied any participation of the crime
“Let’s pray that they (police investigators) will be guided by God,” Efe said.

“Ermita will remain brave and courageous to achieve justice for the poor and Kapitan Imok,” she added.

Well loved

In an interview, Labella said the large crowd that joined Rupinta’s funeral was a proof that the village chief was well-loved by people.

“He was undoubtedly loved. I’ve been with him especially in moments of frustrations and defeat, and it was during those times when I saw his true character,” he told reporters.

“It’s easy to be magnanimous in victory, but it is so difficult to be gallant in difficult moments. Kap Imok showed us his real character when he remained gallant in times of adversities,” the vice mayor added.

Rama, for his part, called on authorities to continue the investigation and secure justice for Rupinta’s family.

“We want to get the mastermind. We cry for justice,” he said.

While people were sad about Rupinta’s demise, Pesquera said the support of many people has reduced the pain.

“We’re sad to say goodbye. But then, we also see the support of the people. That somehow alleviates the pain,” she said.

Generous, kind

In his homily, Fr. Joseph Granada, OAR, lauded Rupinta’s leadership in Ermita and in helping the church.

Granada said the village chief helped them in several church programs and was instrumental in putting up the large wall clock outside the parish.

“We don’t have a belfry and so we decided to have a big clock that will sound 30 minutes before every Mass to alert churchgoers. I personally thanked Kap Imok because that was his idea,” he said.

Granada called on the people to pray for the eternal repose of Rupinta’s soul.

“He’s a big loss to the people of Ermita. He was a father to many people. We, in the church, is in fact grateful to him,” he said.

“May the Lord forgive him for the sins he committed and bring his soul into heaven. We pray for the salvation of his soul. May he rest in peace,” the Augustinian-Recollect priest added.

Rupinta was driving his vehicle with Mendoza past 7 p.m. on November 23 when he was waylaid and gunned down by unidentified assailants riding in two motorcycles while traversing the road in Barangay Tayud.

Rupinta was shot four times, including one in the head, and died before reaching the hospital. Mendoza survived the incident. /with reports from Doris Mae C. Mondragon

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