POLITICAL allies of slain Magsico, San Fernando, Cebu Barangay Captain Johnny Arriesgado believe that politics may have been behind his death.
Police, however, are looking into the victim’s alleged involvement in the illegal drug trade as a possible motive.
San Fernando Association of Barangay Councils (ABC) President Ricardo “Nonoy” Reluya said their political rivals led by mayoral candidate and businessman Ruben Feliciano may have been behind Arriesgado’s assassination last Wednesday night.
Reluya said Feliciano posted a “kill list” on social media that included him, his wife Mayor Lakambini Reluya, the victim, slain Municipal Councilor Reneboy Dacalos and another councilor.
At 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 16, Arriesgado was driving home when four unidentified men on board a white van shot him several times in front of a cement manufacturing firm in Barangay South Poblacion.
Arriesgado was rushed to the Carcar District Hospital, where he was declared dead on arrival.
Also killed during the incident was Barangay Liburon, San Fernando Councilor Adnes Lauronal. He was passing by when Arriesgado’s car ran him over after the ambush. Lauronal’s companion, 33-year-old Antonio Canoy, 33, was also hurt and he was recuperating in the hospital.
Empty shells from an M16 rifle and a .45 pistol were found in the crime scene.
The ABC president, who is his wife’s running mate in the midterm elections in May, said Feliciano warned him and his wife to “retreat or die.”
“Bisag kami giingnan mi nga drug protector mi (They even accused us of being drug protectors). Nga niingon siya nga (He also said) ‘I will kill you all.’ Dili na tumo-tumo kay gipost man na niya (I did not make these up because Feliciano posted these on social media),” Reluya said.
Feliciano allegedly posted on Facebook the names of the five local politicians, including the mayor, that he planned to kill because of their alleged involvement in the illegal drug trade.
Reluya said Arriesgado’s death affected them greatly. The victim, who was on his last term as barangay captain, was running under the mayor’s Alayon slate.
He said his group was really anxious because they didn’t know who would be killed next.
Because of the threats they received, Reluya said he and his wife were considering hiring private security.
Feliciano, in a separate interview, denied the allegations.
“Kwentong kutsero man na siya (All hearsay). Those are wild dreams,” Feliciano told SunStar Cebu on Thursday, Jan. 17. “Ambot niya (I don’t know about him). I have nothing to do with that. He should ask the police the results of their investigation,” Feliciano told SunStar Cebu.
The businessman believed Arriesgado and Dacalos were killed because of their alleged involvement in illegal drugs, and not politics.
“As far as I am concerned, they (Arriesgado and Dacalos) were on the narcolist,” Feliciano said.
The rivalry between Feliciano and the Reluyas started last year when the mayor issued an executive order stopping the businessman’s international port project in Barangay Sangat.
In retaliation, Feliciano filed graft charges against the mayor and her husband for allegedly selling the town’s unserviceable vehicles and heavy equipment without a public bidding.
Feliciano also claimed that the Reluyas benefited from illegal drug money after securing the support of self-confessed drug lord Franz Sabalones during the 2016 national elections.
Local police echoed Feliciano’s sentiment, saying Arriesgado was involved in illegal drugs.
An official of the Police Regional Office 7, who refused to identify himself for security purposes, confirmed that Arriesgado’s name was mentioned by murdered drug pusher Tocelio Ababon after his arrest in Argao last year.
Ababon was killed and ambushed by unidentified men while on board a police car in Barangay Bulasa in Argao last month.
The police official also confirmed that Arriesgado was a trusted cohort of Sabalones and was often involved in the latter’s illegal dealings in Cebu.
Ababon had also allegedly identified Dacalos to be involved in Sabalones’ dealings, despite the denial of Dacalos’s wife.
Police reportedly have documents that include a matrix showing Sabalones’s ties to illegal drugs, including Arriesgado.
But San Fernando’s newly appointed police chief, Chief Insp. Lymel Pasquin, said he had yet to see the contents of the matrix.
Pasquin said they had no clear leads on possible motives behind Arriesgado’s murder.
Pasquin said they started checking establishments near the crime scene, including the cement manufacturing firm, to determine if their security cameras had recorded the incident.
He also planned to meet Arriesgado’s wife to determine if the victim had received threats to his life. They also wanted to determine if the murders of Ababon, Dacalos and Arriesgado were related, he said.
Just last Saturday, all the personnel of San Fernando’s police station were relieved by Police Regional Office 7 Director Debold Sinas to tighten security in the town and monitor the reemergence of the underlings of Sabalones. (From AYB of SuperBalita Cebu, JKV)