Cebu lawyer killed in ambush

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Tuesday, February 18, 2014


CEBU (Updated) -- A Cebuano lawyer who handled high-profile criminal cases was killed, together with his aide and driver, after they were ambushed on the national highway in Barangay Coro, Dalaguete, Cebu Tuesday afternoon.

Lawyers Noel Archival, 52, and his companions were heading back to Cebu City from Dumaguete City in Negros Oriental, where they attended a court hearing, when their attackers peppered Archival’s black Ford Escape with bullets before 2 p.m.

The assailants rode separate red and black four-wheel-drive pickup trucks and flanked the lawyer’s sports utility vehicle before firing shots.

Archival and his aide Edu Miñoza died on the spot and had multiple gunshot wounds, police said.

Driver Alejandro Jaime was declared dead on arrival at 4:33 p.m. in the Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center (VSMMC) in Cebu City.

Paolo Cortes, the lawyer’s other aide, was also hit in his left arm and confined in a hospital.

At least 31 bullet holes from an M16 Armalite rifle marked all sides of the SUV (YGE-240). Seven empty shells and two deformed slugs were found 20 meters away from the vehicle.

“We can’t conclude yet. We still have to dig up,” Inspector Rico Emperwa, head of the Dalaguete Police Station, told reporters when asked what could have motivated the attack.

Emperwa believes the assailants waited for Archival’s group; the ambush took place fewer than four kilometers away from the police station.

Cebu Lawyer Noel Archival ambushed
CEBU. Lawyer Noel Archival, 52, died on the spot, along with one aide, Edu Mendoza, police said. Driver Alejandro Jaime didn’t make it alive to a public hospital in Cebu City, while another aide, Paolo Cortes, survived. (Alex Badayos)

2 vehicles used

A report over dyAB Radyo Patrol 1512 said that Archival had just come from the Regional Trial Court Branch 38 presided by Judge Cenon Voltaire Repollo. He attended a hearing on a pawnshop robbery in Dumaguete City, where some P8 million was involved.

The aide Cortes, when interviewed by police, said the red pickup truck was ahead of them while the black vehicle was behind them.

Suddenly, they were cornered and the assailants fired, forcing the driver to stop 20 meters away from where the attack began, near a cliff.

The assailants then sped toward Cebu City.

Emperwa and his personnel responded to a call for help and saw Archival lying lifeless on the backseat.

“Friend mi niya tungod sa pagkita namo sa korte kapila. Nahibong ko nganong na-ingani siya (He became a friend after we kept seeing each other in court. I’m shocked that this has happened to him),” the police chief said.

Cortes was seated beside Archival while Miñoza had the front seat.

Emperwa said he immediately informed his superiors of the attack and alerted neighboring police stations to keep a lookout for the getaway vehicles.

Cortes and Jaime, who were still conscious when police arrived, were rushed to Cebu City in an ambulance, escorted by two policemen.

Witness

Emperwa said that Archival and Miñoza were declared dead by Dr. Jose Edgar Alonzo, the municipal health officer.

“Wala’y tawo mabuhi kung utok nigawas na (No one could have survived that; their brains were already exposed),” he said when asked why Archival and Miñoza were not brought to a hospital.

Cebu Lawyer Noel Archival
Cebu Lawyer Noel Archival (Sun.Star Cebu file photo)

Emperwa, during the interview, said the narrow stretch of highway, though somewhat secluded, was not crime-prone.

A 44-year-old woman, who wished not to be named, told Sun.Star Cebu she heard gunshots that prompted her to check. She saw the vehicles and thought it was a convoy, but one of the drivers kept on honking his horn.

When she and a few others opened the SUV, they saw Archival, who was groaning in pain. “Naglingolingo pa man to iyang ulo sa kasakit (He was shaking his head and apparently in pain),” she said.

Jaime could no longer talk.

Cortes pulled out his mobile phone from his pants and called someone about what happened to them.

“Gitira mi. Wa ko kabawo asa mi. Patay gyud si Attorney (We were attacked. I don’t know where we are. Attorney died),” she said, quoting Cortes.

Gun, cash

A team from the Scene of the Crime Operatives (SOCO) arrived in Coro before 5 p.m.

During the inspection, they recovered a 9mm firearm loaded with 11 live bullets under the driver’s seat.

“Wala gyud sila kasukol (They didn’t fire back),” Emperwa said. Some P36,000 cash was also recovered from Archival’s left pocket.

At 6:30 p.m., personnel from St. Francis Funeral Homes arrived and removed the remains.

Dalaguete Mayor Ronald Allan Sesante went to the crime scene and said he will urge witnesses to help in the investigation.

The recovered empty shells will be subjected to a ballistic test in the Police Regional Crime Laboratory.

The driver, Jaime, and the other aide, Cortes, were brought to the Dalaguete District Hospital but transferred to a hospital in Cebu City.

Jaime died before reaching the hospital, said Cebu Provincial Police Office Director Noel Gillamac.

Gillamac said that Cortes is now in stable condition.

“My men are now getting his statement to know what happened,” said Gillamac.

“Police are roaming around in interior barangays to check if the vehicle used was abandoned. But so far wala man (the police haven’t seen it),” said Gillamac.

Police response

Task Group Archival was formed on Tuesday.

Central Visayas Police Regional Office (PRO) Director Danilo Constantino also directed constant checkpoints in the southern towns of Cebu.

The task group will be headed by the Cebu Provincial Police Office (CPPO) aided by the Criminal Investigation and Detection group (CIDG), Police Crime Laboratory, and the Provincial Investigation and Detection Management Branch (PIDMB).

Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama directed the Cebu City Police Office (CCPO) to help in the investigation.

As of 5:30 p.m. yesterday, Rama said, a team from CCPO was en route to Dalaguete.

Shortly after the ambush, Councilor Dave Tumulak also activated the Command Control Center.

Tumulak told Sun.Star Cebu he was trying to coordinate with operatives from the Dalaguete Police Station so that he can have the correct identification of the getaway vehicles.

Last night, Tumulak and his team reviewed images of the closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras of Cebu City to see if there were images of the getaway vehicles. The City’s CCTV cameras record the whole day and have at least a month’s worth of memory stored.

‘Great loss’

While Rama directed the city police to go to Dalaguete, he discouraged Councilor Archival from going to Dalaguete, considering that the motive behind the killing has not been determined.

“The police will be giving me a blow-by-blow account of the investigation. I’m also in contact with Nestor and I’ve asked him to stay put. We don’t know what’s on the minds of the perpetrators,” said Rama.

Councilor Archival’s colleagues in the Council were shocked by the death of his brother.

“I’m shocked by the untimely and violent death of my compadre, Noel, who was one of the best lawyers in criminal cases. Although he sometimes cracked jokes inside the courtroom just to lighten the seriousness of cases during trials, he is a great loss to the profession,” Councilor Sisinio Andales said.

Councilor Margarita Osmeña said she would pray for the Archivals. She said that her husband, former mayor and representative Tomas Osmeña, was among the first to comfort Councilor Archival.

Councilor Roberto Cabarrubias also took the time to announce on his Facebook account the death of Atty. Archival, while also sending his condolences to the family.

He described Atty. Archival as “a famous lawyer” in Cebu City. (Sun.Star Cebu)

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