Yearender 2019

Drugs and violence: 20 stories of crimes, tragedy in 2019

By: Dennis Singson - Editor/CDN Digital | January 01,2020 - 07:55 AM

CEBU CITY, Philippines — As the year 2019 drew to a close, CDN Digital looks back at the top 20 crimes and stories involving police in Cebu for the year.

Cebuanos always open the year with revelry as they celebrate the Fiesta Señor and the Sinulog in January.

But violence, death and tragedy marred the celebrations and revelry. 

SOCO personnel examine the crime scene, where former Cebu City Prosecutor Mary Ann Castro’s vehicle ended up after she was killed by an unidentified gunman. | CDN Digital file photo– Tonee Desspojo

1. Fiscal Castro killed

Castro | CDN file photo / Tonee Despojo

Violence reared its ugly head as people were preparing for the Sinulog with the killing of controversial prosecutor, Mary Ann Castro, who was shot dead by a motorcycle-riding gunman in a business district in Cebu City on January 17, 2019.

Castro had just come from a the Ayala Center area when motorcycle-riding gunman tailed her and peppered her yellow Nissan Juke with bullets. She was negotiating the busy Escario Street in Cebu City at past 9 p.m. when she was attacked.

The Integrated Bar of the Philippines Cebu Chapter condemned the killing and called justice for the dead state lawyer.

But two weeks after her killing, her family said they were not satisfied with the investigation of the Cebu City Police Office’s Special Investigation Task Group and then the National Bureau of Investigation stepped in.

The late prosecutor was brought by her family to her hometown in Clarin, Misamis Occidental  on January 26 where she was later laid to rest.

Her death is one of the unsolved killings in Cebu City in 2019.

Read more: Prosecutor Mary Ann Castro shot, killed in Cebu City

Read more: Mary Ann Castro family certain her killer was a professional assassin

Read more: Mary Ann Castro in the eyes of her family: ‘She wanted to die beautiful’


Family and friends of Ashley Abad, dressed in white, attend the Requiem Mass at the Sacred Heart Parish along D. Jakosalem St. Cebu City last January 27, 2019, before she was laid to rest in Mandaue City. CDNDigital | file photo

2. A loss of a young woman and party drugs 

Two days later on January 19, Cebuanos were shocked by the death of a 19-year-old college student, Ashley Abad, who died of an overdose of a party drug, ecstasy.

Abad collapsed during a pre-Sinulog concert in a mall in Cebu City.

Her death caused an uproar for the loss of a promising teenager’s life, especially since it was caused by an overdose of a party drug.

An investigation was conducted on who was responsible for the death of Abad.

On late February, a homicide complaint was filed against the boyfriend of Abad at the Cebu City Prosecutor’s Office.

Read more: Ashley Abad: The bright, bubbly girl who can sparkle no more

Read more: Ashley Abad died of ecstasy overdose, PNP confirms; Duterte orders filing of cases vs boyfriend

Read more: Ashley Abad’s boyfriend ready to face charges, says lawyer


Scene of the crime operatives process the area where the shooting incident happened in Barangay Sambag 1, which claimed three lives. | File photo — Contributed photo

3. Tragedy of two feuding families

On January 21, a day after the successful celebration of the Fiesta Señor and the Sinulog Grand Parade on January 20, 2019, which drew millions of people, a tragedy happened in Barangay Sambag I in Cebu City where two feuding families — the Bacaltos and Navales families — ended in shootout.

When the smoke cleared, three lie dead on the street:  Two from the Bacaltos side — the father and his son — while one on the Navales side, a brother of one those involved in the argument that escalated into the bloody incident.

The tragedy did not stop there for these families as those who survived the shootout were jailed — Michael Bacaltos, one of the sons involved in the shootout, is facing a homicide and a frustrated homicide case, while, on the other side, Vanzant Navales, is charged with homicide.

Read more: Three dead as two former friends’ feud leads to shooting incident in Sambag 1

Read  more: Cebu City prosecutor downgrades to homicide case vs suspect in family feud shooting in Sambag I


This is the bullet-riddled van that San Fernando Mayor Neneth Reluya’s group rode when they were ambushed in Talisay City. | CDN Digital file photo — Morexette Erram

4. San Fernando mayor ambushed

A day later on January 22, San Fernando Mayor Lakambini Neneth Reluya, who was on a van together with her husband, some members of her staff and driver were ambushed by armed men in Talisay City.

Reluya and his group were on their way home to San Fernando from Cebu City when they were attacked. Her husband, Councilor Ricardo “Nonoy” Reluya, and two of her staff members – Allan Bayot and Ricky Montenora – died as the attackers peppered the van with bullets.

The deadly attack happened after a town councilor and a barangay captain were shot dead by motorcycle-riding assailants in separate incidents earlier in the month. 

The attacks on the two officials were linked to illegal drugs.

San Fernando is a southern town which is a hometown of self-confessed drug lord, Franz Sabalones.

Seven days later, police tracked down a gun-for-hire group and engaged them in a shootout in Kampo 4 in Talisay City. Jerome Labitad, the target of the police officers, and two others, however, managed to escape.

Police also earlier identified Felix Abacajan Jr., a former Barangay Maghaway councilor, as a prime suspect in the ambush of Reluya.

Abacajan was identified by police as one of the alleged gunman in the Reluya ambush.

 Multiple murder and multiple attempted murder charges were filed against Labitad and Abacajan, and five others for the attack on Reluya.

The suspects, however, remain at large. 

Read more: San Fernando mayor survives ambush

Read more: Bloody night in Talisay City claims 4 lives, including town mayor’s husband

Read more: Police to file charges against suspects in Reluya ambush


Large packs of shabu seized inside a house in a high-end subdivision in Mandaue City by Philippine National Police and Phillipine Drug Enforcement Agency agents at past 11 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 8, 2019, totaled 7.5 kilos and valued at P51 million. | CDN Digital file  photo — Benjie Talisic

5. P51-M shabu seized in Mandaue house

Police raided on February 9 a house in a high-end subdivision in Mandaue City and confiscated 7.5 kilos of suspected shabu.

Police said that the confiscated drugs had an estimated Dangerous Drugs Board value of P51 million.

The house was raided after police arrested a suspected drug courier, who in turn led them to the house. 

It was the biggest drug haul that month for the police.

Read more: P51 million shabu seized from a house in a posh subdivision in Mandaue City


Police cordon area where remains of two persons were found in Sitio Babao, Barangay Maghaway, Talisay City early on Friday, Feb. 22, 2019. |CDND Photo/Benjie Taiisic

6. Six dead in one day

On February 22, in Cebu and Talisay cities, six persons were killed four of them police operations in Cebu City while two were found dead with several gunshot wounds in Talisay City.

The bloody incidents started at dawn in Barangay Zapatera in Cebu City with police officers killing the suspect as he resisted arrest during a buy-bust operation. Police believed the suspect, Kenneth Rosales, was believed to be a party drug supplier in the city.

At about the same time in Talisay City, the two bodies with gunshot wounds were found.

A few hours later, a police operation on loose firearms in Barangay Lusaran in Cebu City, ended in the death of two barangay tanods and a tanod’s wife.

Police said that those killed resisted arrested and allegedly engaged police in a shootout.

Read more: Bloody Friday: 4 killed in early morning police operations, 2 others found dead in Cebu


About 18 kilos of shabu seized in a drug bust in Fatima Homes, Barangay Inayawan, Cebu City past 1 a.m. of Sunday, March 3, 2019. |CDND Photo by Benjie Talisic

7. A drug queen and the P68 million shabu haul

Jocelyn Encila

Two buy-bust operations in Barangay Inayawan in Cebu City and in Consolacion town in northern Cebu on March 3 resulted to one of the biggest drug haul of the police this year.

The operations yielded 28 kilos of suspected shabu, with an estimated Dangerous Drugs Board value of P190.4 million.

The operations led to the arrest of Jocelyn Encila, who was considered as a “drug queen.”

Encila was allegedly connected to the group of Roy Ygot, who is an inmate inside the Bilibid prison and who run the business through the internet.

On March 6, Jenalyn Encila, the sister of Jocelyn, was killed by a motorcycle-riding gunman as she was getting off a taxicab in Barangay Labogon, Mandaue City. 

Police believed that she was killed because of her alleged link to the Roy Ygot group.

 Jenalyn was allegedly the person tasked to distribute illegal drugs and to send the proceeds to Ygot.

Read more: P190M shabu recovered, four arrested in twin drug busts in Cebu City and Consolacion town

Read more: Love and drugs: Encila’s life as Consolacion’s drug queen


Renato Llenes, the self-confessed suspect in the killing of Christine Lee Silawan. | CDN file

8. Christine Lee Silawan murder

Christine Lee Silawan, 16

On March 11, the body of a 16-year-old Mass collector was found in a vacant lot in Sitio Mahayahay, Barangay Bangkal, Lapu-Lapu City — what made the killing even more grotesque and enraged the public and authorities was the way it was done. 

Christine Lee Silawan was stabbed dead and her face skinned. She was stabbed multiple times. Police scrambled to investigate the case and a few days later held the former boyfriend of Silawan as a person of interest.

The National Bureau of Investigation in the Visayas (NBI-7) that was conducting a parallel investigation, arrested Silawan’s former later making him a primary suspect in the crime..

But a month later, police investigators presented another suspect in the killing.

The P1-million bounty placed on the killer’s head prompted three witnesses to surface and point to Renato Llenes, 42, as the suspect in the killing.

LLenes, who confessed to the crime, recounted how they met and became a couple on Facebook. 

He also explained why and how he killed her using a pair of scissors. He murdered the teenager because he was disappointed at her for having a sexual relationship with her previous boyfriend.

With Llenes confession, charges against the former boyfriend were dismissed, and he was later released from detention.

Llenes is now facing a murder case for the killing of Christine Lee Silawan.

Read more: Body of 16-year-old church collector whose face was skinned found in Lapu-Lapu City

Read more: Suspect Llenes recounts how he killed 16-year-old Christine Silawan

Read more: GALLERY: Images of confessed suspect in Christine Lee Silawan murder

Read more: Silawan killing: Teen suspect’s case junked; murder raps readied against self-confessed killer


Police presented security guard Jessie Medequillo to the media for the first time following his surrender on April 12, 2019. | CDND File Photo/Tonee Despojo

9. Another brutal teen killing

On April 8, the body of a 14-year-old girl was found inside a septic tank in a school in Danao City.

Thesa Marie Ygay was found with several stab wounds in her body.

The suspect, Jessie Medequillo, a security guard of the school, who was allegedly the boyfriend of the teenager, surrendered to police a few days later.

He claimed that he killed the girl because he allegedly threatend to kill him after he cut her hair short because he caught her having another boyfriend and going out late at nights.

The suspect also denied being a boyfriend of the girl, whom he allegedly treated as a niece.

Read more: Rage led security guard to kill Danao girl


Guests offer their prayers to the victims of the shooting incident inside a coffee shop in F. Ramos Street, Cebu City on April 11. | Contributed file photo — PHOTO FROM THE OFFICIAL FACEBOOK PAGE OF THE GOOD CUP COFFEE COMPANY

10. Good Cup Coffee murder

On April 11, 2019 at past 11 p.m., a gunman wearing a full-face helmet entered the Good Cup Coffee, a coffee shop, along Ramos Street in Cebu City and fired at the employees.

The assailant killed Michael Hermoso, an award winning barista, and the Kis Ramos, a 21-year-old graduating student of the University of the Philippines.

He also wounded two other employees.

On June 10, 2019, murder charges were filed against Hans Jurgen Dingcong.

Dingcong was allegedly an acquaintance of Hermoso. He was a relationship with Hermoso’s past lovers.

Police believed that the killing was spurred by jealousy.

The suspect is still at large.

Read more: Friends mourn death of ‘Blazing John Michael’, recall his great love for coffee

Read more: Brewing hope: Survivors of tragedy serve Cebu’s best coffee

Read more: Good Cup Coffee shooting: Suspect identified; murder complaint filed


Members of the Scene of the Crime Operatives process the crime scene at the intersection of SB Cabahug Street and AC Cortes Avenue in Barangay Ibabao, Mandaue City on April 14, 2019 where the Canes couple were identified as the victims. | CDN file

11. Couple shot dead in front of daughter

They came from the North Bus Terminal to send some of their ready to wear clothes to a northern town of Cebu.

On their way home on a motorcycle on that fateful night of April 14, Fraldine Kate Ramayla Canes, 24, and her husband, Michael Canes, 27, and their eight-year-old daughter, were waylaid by motorcycle-riding gunmen in Mandaue City.

As they were waiting for the traffic light at the corner of SB Cabahug Street and AC Cortes Avenue in Barangay Ibabao, Mandaue City at past 11 p.m. on Sunday, April 14, 2019, motorcycle-riding gunmen fired at the couple.

A security camera in the area showed one of the gunmen got off his motorcycle and finished the couple off in front of their daughter, who survived the killing.

Police have linked the killing to illegal drugs, claiming that the couple were on their drug watchlist and linked them to the “drug queen,” whom they arrested in March where they confiscated P68 million worth of suspected shabu in two operations. 

Read more: Motorcycle-riding-gunmen kill couple in late night Mandaue ambush

Read more: MCPO chief links Canes couple to drug group

Read more: Family of Canes couple are Duterte supporters


Police Corporal Feliciano Yballe, Jr. | File photo –Photo Courtesy of the Police Regional Office in Central Visayas

12. Bloody police misencounter

It started with police tracker teams sent to arrest the killers of a police officer, who was shot dead on April 30 in Toledo City. 

Police Master Sergeant Junard Cinco, a member of the Cebu Provincial Police Drug Enforcement Unit, was killed by motorcycle-riding gunman.

On May 1, police tracker teams, who were sent out to get Cinco’s killers in a supposed hideout in Cebu City’s mountain barangay of Sudlod were stopped on their tracks when it instead led to the death of Police Corporal Feliciano Yballe, a member of the Police Mobile Force of the Cebu City Police Office.

Police Brigadier General Debold Sinas, Police Regional Office in Central Visayas director,  ordered an investigation into the the incident after concluding that Yballe was killed by his fellow policemen in a “misencounter.”

Cinco’s murder has remained unsolved while most of the members of tracker team were investigated for the misencounter  and faced an administrative complaint.

Read more: Sinas: Corporal Yballe died in a misencounter with fellow police officers

Read more: Sinas: Police unit’s operations halted as 18 cops in Sudlon ‘misencounter’ probed


Personel from the Scene of the Crime Operatives examine the crime scene where Police Captain Delfin Bontuyan was ambushed. CDN Digital photo | CDN Digital file photo — Rosalie Abatyo

13. Captain Bontuyan killed in ambush

On May 21, Police Captain Delfin Bontuyan has just attended a court hearing at at Branch 13 of Cebu City Regional Trial Court and was on his way home to Barangay Talamban, Cebu City.

But Bontuyan never made it home alive as he was shot dead by motorcycle-riding assailants at 3 p.m. near an intersection where a mall and a police station were situated in Barangay Mabolo, Cebu City.

He was then assigned to the Sulu Provincial Police office at the time of his death.

There were insinuations of links to illegal drugs from the police officials of the Police Regional Office in Central Visayas, an allegation denied by her family.

The family defense to that allegation was to let the people vouch for the character of the police officer.

Bontuyan was buried on May 30 at the Angelicum Gardens in Mandaue City with full funeral honors and a 21-gun salute.

But despite the creation of a task group to solve the killing, no one has yet been arrested or identified as the suspect.

This is one of the cases that has remained unsolved in Cebu City.

Read more: Police pursue ‘four men’ in Bontuyan murder

Read more: Bontuyan Family continues to hurt but determined to find justice for slain cop


Former Medellin Mayor Ricky Ramirez. | CDN file photo

14. Former Medellin Mayor killed inside hospital

On June 18, at past 11 p.m. 10 armed men wearing bonnets entered the Bomedco Medical Center in Barangay Luy-a, Medellin town in northern Cebu and shot dead former Mayor Ricardo “Ricky” Ramirez.

Ramirez was on hospital arrest at the hospital, when he was killed.

He was 55.

Ramirez was arrested in 2017 for illegal possession of firearms after several high powered firearms were confiscated by the Provincial Intelligence Branch of the Cebu Police Provincial Office (CPPO) during a raid at his house.

He was also killed two months before he would be released for serving time for illegal possession of firearms. 

That is according to an official of the Cebu Provincial Police Office.

His killing, however, has remained unsolved.

Read more: Former Medellin mayor Ricky Ramirez shot dead inside hospital room

Read more: Medellin police continue to look for clues on identity of Ramirez’s murder suspects



15. Four CCPO chiefs in a year

Police Colonel Royina Garma, Cebu City Police Office chief, the first woman police chief of the CCPO, has retired and vacated her post to become the general manager of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office in July.

She turned over her post to another woman police officer, Police Colonel Gemma Vinluan, who was the head of the Police Children and Women’s Protection Center in Quezon City prior to her Cebu City assignment.

She has also been in the forefront of the war on illegal drugs in Cebu City. Under her watch, several millions worth of suspected shabu were confiscated and drug personalities arrested.

Vinluan, however, only served as the CCPO chief for a few months. She was relieved from her post after the killing of Clarin Mayor David Navarro on October 25 while he was on police custody. 

She was replaced in an acting capacity by Police Colonel Geovanie Maines, who is also the deputy chief of the Police Regional Office in Central Visayas’ operations department.

Maines also served for a few months and was replaced on December 27 by Police Colonel Engelbert Soriano, who is the current acting CCPO chief.

Read more: Rape cases among priorities of new Cebu City Police director

Read more: De Leon places Vinluan on ‘floating status’

Read more: Colonel Soriano offers his ‘big heart,’ big plans for Cebu City Police Office


Police confiscate a total of P78.2 million of illegal drugs in a buy-and-bust operation turned armed encounter on Tuesday afternoon, July 22, along Zuelling Avenue in Barangay Subangdaku, Mandaue City. CDND PHOTO / Benjie Talisic

16. Bloody shootout in Mandaue Reclamation

Three men lost their lives in a shootout with Mandaue policemen during a buy-bust operation along Zuellig Avenue at the Mandaue Reclamation Area on July 22.

Two of them died on the spot while the third man died in the hospital.

Police confiscated 11.5 kilos of suspected shabu with an estimated Dangerous Drugs Board value of P78.2 million.

Police believed the three men to be members of a drug group.

Read more: Illegal drugs worth P78.2 million seized in buy-and-bust operation in Mandaue City


Scene of the Crime Operatives take the escalator from the basement to the first floor of the J Centre Mall where the pawnshops that the robbers hit were located. | CDN Digital file photo – Norman Mendoza

17. Daring J Centre Mall heist

Five men who were arrested for the J Centre Mall robbery said they did not have money to pay for their bail set at P100,000 each. | Norman Mendoza

Armed men stormed the J Centre Mall in Mandaue City on October 19, disarmed the guards, and robbed pawnshops and a money changer inside the mall. They fled with several pieces of jewelry and cash estimated to be millions of pesos.

The police caught up with the robbery group in a wharf in Bogo City on board a boat to Masbate.

They arrested seven robbery suspects, but as three were killed later as they allegedly tried to grab the firearm of a police officer transporting the arrested suspects from the wharf to the Bogo Police Station.

Another one was shot dead as he resisted arrest when police closed in on him at the wharf.

The loot however was not with them.

Police later identified the robbery group to be headed by a former member of the Parojinog Robbery group in Ozamis City.

He was caught in a CCTV footage boarding a bus to the north of Cebu. He was also believed to be the one who carried the stolen cash and jewelry.

The five arrested robbery suspects were later charged and jailed.

The heist prompted meetings with police and the local government units and malls on what new security measures they would need to improve on to avoid a similar incident from happening.

Read more: Six armed men staged daring mall heist, carted away jewelry, cash; one security guard hurt  

Read more: In Photos: Police kill 3, arrest 4 suspects in Mandaue mall robbery

Read more: Mandaue mall heist suspects slapped with ‘robbery in band’ case; alert up vs suspects still on the run


The body of Clarin Mayor David Navarro is covered with a blanket while police process the crime scene. | Raul Constantine Labrador

18. Clarin Mayor Navarro shot dead under police custody

Mayor David Navarro of Clarin, Misamis Occidental. CDN Digital photo | Raul Tabanao

Mayor David Navarro, mayor of Clarin town in Misamis Occidental in Mindanao, was supposed to preside in the town’s executive legislative agenda held here in Cebu in October.

Navarro, however, ended up detained on October 24 after he was caught in the security camera on October 23 punching and kicking a male massage therapist in a Cebu City massage parlor.

On October 25, Navarro was being transported by the Abellana Police Station officers to the Cebu City Prosecutor’s Office to undergo an inquest proceeding for the charges filed against him for his massage parlor actions.

The convoy of three vehicles were waylaind en route to the Cebu City Prosecutor’s Office and killed by at least 10 armed men.

Navarro was listed as No. 31 on Duterte’s list of narco-politicians that was released last March, in time for the midterm polls.

Read more: Clarin Mayor David Navarro shot dead in Cebu City

Read more: Who is slain Clarin Mayor Navarro and why was he in Cebu City

Read more: Cebu police chief relieved to turn over Navarro case to NBI


Police Colonel Joie Yape | Contributed photo

19. Former PIB chief ambushed, killed

Police Lieutenant Colonel Joie Yape, Jr., the former chief of the Cebu Provincial Intelligence Branch, was killed by a motorcycle-riding gunman as he was walking along Molave Street in Cebu City at past 5 p.m. of November 21.

Yape has just came from a court hearing and was on his way to meet his wife for dinner when he was attacked.

At the time of his death, Yape was an investigator of the Internal Affairs Services and was based in the Philippine National Police headquarters in Camp Crame since June 2019.

Yape had been the PIB chief from 2017 to January 2019 when he was then reassigned as the police chief of the police station in Calbayog City in Samar.

A Special Investigation Task Group was formed to investigate the killing of Yape.

His case has also remained unsolved.

Read more: Former PIB chief, Yape, shot dead by unidentified gunmen in Cebu City

Read more: CCPO Chief Maines: We’re probing people, whom Yape has been at odds with


A 48-year-old veterinarian was shot dead on board his vehicle by two unidentified motorcycle-riding gunmen in Sitio Maanyag, Barangay Biasong, Talisay City, Cebu, around 2 this dawn, December 30, 2019. | CDN Digital file photo — Paul Lauro

20. Talisay veterinarian shot dead

With the year about to end, a veterinarian in Talisay City was ambushed by motorcycle-riding assailants on December 30 as he was leaving an abattoir in Sitio Maanyag, Barangay Biasong, Talisay City.

Neil Pala Boligao died after he suffered gunshot wounds in his chest.

Talisay City Mayor Gerard Anthony Gullas has called on police to solve the killing.

Read more: Talisay police identify ‘person of interest’ in veterinarian’s ambush

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TAGS: Ashley Abad, Bacaltos, Canes, Castro, drugs, Garma, Maines, Navales, Navarro, Reluya, Silawan, sinas, Sinulog Festival, Soriano, Vinluan, Yape

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