CEBU CITY — It seems the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) 7 and the PNP are pursuing two different suspects in the killing of lawyer Arbet Sta. Ana-Yongco.
The NBI 7 received Thursday a picture of a man, formerly charged with a murder case, who has been identified by two witnesses of the bureau.
NBI 7 Chief Reynaldo Esmeralda said the picture was sent through e-mail by lawyer Patricio Bernales, NBI district head in Iligan City, after the gunman’s sketch was dispatched to different regional offices of the bureau.
The picture shows a man lying on a hospital bed recuperating from gunshot wounds.
He was reportedly wounded for resisting arrest by a joint NBI and military team in Palawan in 2001.
Esmeralda also clarified that he was not the one who confirmed that Michel Favila was a suspect in the Yongco murder because two NBI 7 witnesses did not identify him. Favila’s photo was published by a local paper (not Sun.Star Cebu) Thursday.
After the publication, the task force created to solve the crime is now refusing to divulge details on the case.
Cebu City Police Office (CCPO) Director Melvin Gayotin confirmed that a picture of Favila was shown to a witness and was positively identified.
However, he said only the task force knows what happens next with the publication of the report.
Gayotin said the report would have been good news had the man already been arrested.
“But since we are still looking for him, it would give him the idea to elude arrest,” Gayotin said.
He only hopes the public will be cooperative and inform authorities if they see Favila around.
After a meeting with members of an alliance of women’s groups yesterday, President Arroyo ordered law enforcement agencies to solve the Yongco murder the soonest possible.
The NBI 7, Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) 7 and the Criminal Investigation and Intelligence Bureau of the CCPO have formed Task Force Yongco.
The three units have agreed to share information and coordinate with each other. CIDG 7 Chief Salvador Manga was assigned the spokesperson for the task force.
Manga told reporters that he already talked to Esmeralda regarding the publication of Favila’s picture, but he refused to say what they agreed on.
Yongco, 38, private prosecutor in the parricide case against cult leader Ruben Ecleo Jr., was in her law office when a man entered and shot her four times in the cheek and neck last Monday.
She died at the Perpetual Succour Hospital minutes after she was brought there by her husband, brother and Zapatera Barangay Captain Frank Benedicto.
Mayor Tomas Osmeña and civic groups have blamed Ecleo for the killing, a charge his lawyer Orlando Salatandre Jr. denied.
Task Force Yongco is pursuing leads, including a suspect whom Esmeralda described as a “cold-blooded hired killer” and allegedly a former member of the Philippine Navy.
Initial reports from the NBI in Mindanao said the suspect brutally killed a policeman in Kapatagan, Lanao del Norte in 1997.
When the wounded policeman fell into a roadside canal, the suspect pulled him out, put him back on the street and finished him off by emptying the magazine of his .45 pistol, Esmeralda said.
The gunman’s trademark is to wear a white garment, similar to a priest cassock, and ride a motorcycle, driven by a backup, as his getaway vehicle.
Esmeralda said the suspect’s frustrated homicide case is still pending before the Regional Trial Court in Palawan.
The NBI 7 still has to check if the person is a member of the Philippine Missionaries Benevolent Association, a group headed by Ecleo.
Reports earlier said the gunman could have been one of Ecleo’s close-in bodyguards seen during a hearing of the parricide case at the Palace of Justice last year.