Drugs and violence: 20 stories of crimes, tragedy in 2019
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.
1. Fiscal Castro killed
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
7. A drug queen and the P68 million shabu haul
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.
8. Christine Lee Silawan murder
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: Silawan killing: Teen suspect’s case junked; murder raps readied against self-confessed killer
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
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.
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: MCPO chief links Canes couple to drug group
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.
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
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.
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: De Leon places Vinluan on ‘floating status’
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.
17. Daring J Centre Mall heist
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.
18. Clarin Mayor Navarro shot dead under police custody
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.
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.
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.
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