Court employee saw Canadian shoot self-A A +A
Friday, January 25, 2013
CEBU CITY -- The police have identified a witness who saw retired journalist John Pope shoot himself in the head, and are now persuading him to testify to erase doubts on the circumstances of the Canadian’s death.
The witness, a court employee, reportedly hid in the storage room near the stairs where police shot Pope.
Acting Cebu City Police Office (CCPO) Director Mariano Natuel said Thursday that aside from an autopsy, the witness’ testimony will help establish that Pope killed himself, as alleged by the two policemen who shot him in the arms and legs.
He also said Thursday that the Investigative and Detective Management Branch (IDMB) of CCPO was to locate the person who might have sold the unlicensed firearms to Pope.
But the Special Task Force Pope is having a hard time tracing the source of the guns that Pope used in shooting Dr. Reynold Rafols, the doctor’s lawyer Jubian Achas and himself inside the Chief Justice Fernan Palace of Justice at 8:20 a.m. last Tuesday.
“We learned that the firearms are not registered. But we are exerting effort to find the source,” Senior Superintendent Orlando Ualat, head of the task force, told Sun.Star Cebu.
During a case conference, Ualat said they came up with two theories on how Pope sneaked in the .357 revolver and .45 pistol inside the Palace of Justice.
First, the security guards detailed at the entrance no longer bothered to frisk Pope because he regularly visited there.
The guards of Eagle Matrix Security Agency Inc. may have initially subjected Pope to a physical search but when he came back, he could have been allowed to enter without being frisked, Ualat said.
“He had a lot of pending cases, so he frequently went to the courts,” Ualat said.
The task force said it could also be that Pope had an accomplice, or that a third party was involved in the crime.
“Though this might seem impossible, we’re still considering this angle,” the policeman said.
As it continues to investigate the shooting, the task force is also evaluating what award to give PO2 Celso Rivera Jr. and PO1 Oriel Hagupit for immediately responding to the crime alarm.
The body of Pope, 66, remains unclaimed in the morgue of a Cebu City hospital. His sister, Susan Webb, is expected to arrive in Cebu tomorrow (Saturday) to claim the body.
Natuel said the Canadian embassy has contacted Webb.
He said the Homicide Section of the CCPO has requested for an autopsy from the Philippine National Police Crime Laboratory but has yet to wait for Pope’s next of kin.
Natuel said they could not perform an autopsy on Pope without Webb’s presence or the consent of the embassy.
“The Homicide Section found out that the embassy was able to get in touch with his (Pope) sister,” said Natuel.
Pope allegedly shot himself after he shot and killed Rafols, a pediatric surgeon, and Achas while they waited for a hearing inside the Municipal Trial Court in Cities (MTCC) Branch 6 at 8:20 a.m. of Tuesday.
Pope also shot Assistant Cebu City Prosecutor Maria Theresa Casiño on the hallway outside MTCC Branch 1. She survived but she’s still confined in the intensive care unit of a private hospital while waiting for surgery to remove the slug from her nape.
While looking for two other prosecutors after shooting the victims, Pope was seen by two policemen and was shot when he tried to fire at them.
Meanwhile, immigration officials said the Board of Commissioners of the Bureau of Immigration (BI) issued a deportation order against Pope on October 11, 2012 yet, but it was not implemented because he filed a motion for reconsideration.
Lawyer Antonette Mangrobang, BI chief of intelligence, said the petition for deportation against Pope was filed in July 2011, a few months after his Special Retiree’s Residence Visa (SSRV) was downgraded to 9A Tourist Visa.
Mangrobang said Pope was facing summary deportation for malicious mischief, trespass to dwelling and illegal possession of firearms. He was found guilty of the charges, hence, the order to deport him.
She said that even if the Board of Commissioners had granted his motion for consideration, Pope could not leave the country because of the pending cases against him in court.
Mangrobang failed to identify the complainant against Pope because she did not have the folder of the case during the telephone interview.
In a separate interview, BI Cebu Alien Control Officer Casimiro Madarang III said Rafols had filed the petition to deport Pope after his SSRV was downgraded to 9A Tourist Visa.
Madarang said Pope’s visa was downgraded after he sold his condominium unit, which served as his investment to qualify for the SSRV.
Elma Corbeta, officer-in-charge of the Philippine Retirement Authority (PRA) in Cebu, said Pope was granted SSRV in June 1998 after investing US$50,000.
He used his investment to buy a condominium unit in Residenza Tuscania, where Dr. Rafols also lived.
The PRA annotated the title of the condominium unit to make sure that Pope remained qualified to be an SSRV holder.
In 2011, Pope asked the PRA to cancel the annotation and sold his condominium unit.
Corbeta said the PRA cancelled his SSRV in March 2011.
Since then, Pope had been holding a regular 9A Tourist Visa. The 9A is a paragraph of the Philippine Immigration Act of 1940 that grants visa to tourists or a temporary visitor in the country. (JBT/DSM/EOB/Sun.Star Cebu)
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on January 26, 2013.