IT WAS a crime scene that could have come straight out of the longest teleserye in Philippine television, “Ang Probinsyano.”
Armed men wearing black bonnets, bulletproof vests and high-powered firearms with silencers stormed with quick precision a private hospital in the remote town of Medellin, Cebu before midnight Tuesday, June 18, 2019, shooting dead Medellin Councilor Ricardo Ramirez, the town’s former mayor.
Police Lt. Col. Eloveo Marquez, Chief of the Provincial Investigation and Detection Management Board (PIDMB), said 15 armed men stormed the Bogo-Medellin Medical Center (BMMC) at Brgy. Luy-a, Medellin, Cebu onboard three sports utility vehicle (SUV) vans and a hatchback sedan around 11 p.m. Tuesday.
A jail guard assigned to watch over Ramirez said it took only several seconds when three armed assailants rained gunshots on the ex-mayor, who had hidden inside his hospital room’s private restroom.
Witnesses’ accounts estimate that it took only two to three minutes for the 15 armed men to storm the hospital and kill one of Medellin’s notable personalities.
The hospital is about 2.5 kilometers away from the police.
The body of Ramirez, 55, was riddled with bullets when police found him in the restroom.
Initial investigation by the Medellin police said that while the duty guard was about to turn over his post to the incoming guard, the three SUVs and the hatchback sedan entered the hospital compound.
Witnesses said the armed men were wearing short pants. They were speaking in different dialects like Tagalog, Hiligaynon and Cebuano.
The men then disarmed hospital guards, took their cellphones including those of civilians who were outside waiting for their sick relatives and of hospital personnel on duty. They told them to drop to the ground.
Eight of the armed men proceeded to the nurse’s station and other offices of hospital staff including the pharmacy where they also took the cellphones of personnel and ordered them to drop to the ground.
Those who remained outside kept watch over the perimeter and the civilians who had been told to drop to the ground.
Telephone lines of the hospital were also cut off.
Medellin Chief Police Major Audie Pelayo said four of the armed men who went to the nurse’s station accosted the nurse in charge to direct them to Room 103, where Ramirez had been placed under hospital arrest for almost two years now.
Inside his room, Ramirez was with assigned jail guard Jail Officer 1 Renan Pableo and Ramirez’s son’s girlfriend identified as Shaira Abdul.
Pableo said Abdul was the one assigned to watch over Ramirez for that night and was tasked to buy medicines that the former mayor might need.
As the armed men slammed and kicked the door open, Ramirez and the girl ran towards the restroom to hide.
Pableo said two of the men were armed with high-caliber long firearms, while the other two had short firearms.
One of those carrying a long firearm pointed a gun at him and disarmed him. The same man also took his backpack with his cellphone, money and other personal items.
Meanwhile, three of the gunmen proceeded to the restroom and pulled the girl back to the room before shooting Ramirez.
“Dali kaayo ang panghitabo. Segundos lang. Murag wala abti og minuto. Nadungog nako nagrakrak gyud. Murag gi-automatic (ang armas). Gihurot ang bala,” Pableo said.
(It was quick. Just seconds. It did not even reach a minute. I heard gunfire. I think it was gunfire from automatic weapons. The magazines were emptied.)
A broken toilet bowl inside the restroom was left witness to the brutal slaying of the former mayor who was known to have put Medellin on the world tourism map. (See sidebar below.)
After killing Ramirez, the suspects left the hospital facility quickly using the access road of BMMC going to the National Grid Corp. of the Philippines facility, exiting to the national road and straight to the southern part of Cebu province.
Medellin police investigator Staff Sergeant Rocelito Ortega said 35 empty shells from a 9 mm. caliber pistol and a 5.56 semi-automatic rifle were found in the crime scene.
A metal fragment, one deformed fired bullet and one fired bullet were also recovered.
An improvised tooter with burner, a broken improvised burner and green lighter were also found.
Pableo admitted it was only the second time that he had been assigned to watch the former mayor and he said the former was strictly informed not to engage in illegal drugs. He also said he did not see Ramirez, while under his watch, using illegal drugs.
Medellin District Jail Warden Supt. Gil Inopia said his men, 20 jail officers, were reshuffled in their duties every 12 hours. He said those who kept watch over Ramirez were not on duty all the time.
To erase doubts, Pableo was made to undergo a drug test Wednesday morning, June 19, 2019 at the Municipal Health Unit. The results will be known on Thursday, June 20, 2019.
One of the motives for the murder that the Medellin police is looking into is Ramirez’s alleged involvement in illegal drugs.
But Pelayo added they are also looking at personal grudge with his business dealings and when he was then town mayor. Ramirez owns a sugarcane plantation. During his stint as mayor, he was embroiled in an alleged harassment and threatening to kill fisherfolk in the town’s island barangay of Gibitngil.
But Pelayo admitted they did not receive reports that the former mayor faced threats against his life.
They hadn’t also monitored that Ramirez was involved in illegal drugs in the town since he was incarcerated.
Marquez said what happened on Tuesday night was “alarming” due to the number of suspects who waged the attack in a healthcare facility.
Marquez said the suspects were also fully concealed because of the bonnets and there were no closed circuit television (CCTV) cameras within and outside the hospital.
On Wednesday, a special investigation task group (SITG) was created to fast-track the investigation, Marquez said.
The SITG will be composed of the Medellin police, Philippine National Police Crime Lab, Criminal Investigation and Detection Group 7 and the Cebu Provincial Police Office.
They will also coordinate with the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) since Ramirez was under its jurisdiction when he was murdered under hospital arrest.
To recall, Ramirez was arrested in July 2017 for possession of unlicensed firearms, ammunition and drug paraphernalia in his residence in Barangay Caputatan Sur, Medellin.
Barely a month after his arrest, he was brought to the Cebu Doctors’ Hospital in August 2017 for high blood pressure.
He was later brought to the BMMC after his lawyer filed a motion in court to place Ramirez under “hospital arrest” due to his medical condition. It was granted.
In 2017, Ramirez was named by former Police Regional Office-Central Visayas Director Jose Mario Espino as one of those involved in the illegal drug trade.
Ramirez ran during the May 2016 election as municipal town council member and won. (With AYB of SuperBalita Cebu, WBS, VLA)