THE Special Investigation Task Group Tabanao was created yesterday to investigate the killing of Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) agent Jesus “Jessie” Tabanao last Saturday night.

Headed by Senior Insp. Carmelo Dayon, the task force is composed of elements of the City Intelligence Branch, Investigation and Detection Management Branch and the Homicide Section of the Cebu City Police Office (CCPO).

CCPO Director Noli Romana said the task force will verify if the victim was followed by his assailant. If that proves to be the case, they will check the route Tabanao took for closed-circuit TV (CCTV) cameras that might show them the gunman’s face.

“We will try to determine where he passed before he was shot and check if there are CCTV cameras on the establishments he passed by,” Romana said.

Still no motive

He said they have yet to establish a motive behind the shooting, adding that it might have been work-related.

“Based on the victim’s profile, his lifestyle focuses more on his work. So one of the priorities of our investigation is his work in the PDEA,” he said.

The CCPO director also said they are looking for other witnesses aside from a security guard.

Some P50,000 in cash was recovered in Tabanao’s possession.

Romana said the task force will check all aspects, including all involvements Tabanao had prior to his death.

Tabanao was on his way to fetch his pregnant wife Katrina when he was shot in a well-lit area at 11:45 p.m. on Escario St., Barangay Kamputhaw, Cebu City.

The security guard told police the gunman pulled over and alighted from his motorcycle. He crossed to the other lane heading toward Tabanao, who went out of his white Mitsubishi Strada, possibly to get something from the back.

A great loss

The gunman shot Tabanao five times then fled.

In an autopsy report conducted last Sunday, the 35-year-old victim was hit in the heart, lungs and spine. He also had gunshot wounds in his back and right armpit.

Tabanao was a former radioman of Bombo Radyo until he returned as a talent of dyRC Radyo Calungsod this year, where he anchored an anti-drug advocacy program.

He was transferred to the PDEA Caraga Region last Sept. 1 after serving Central Visayas since 2008.

His colleagues considered his death as a great loss to PDEA, saying he was a proficient and dedicated officer.

Apart from his duties as a public information officer in the anti-drugs agency, he was also involved in buy-bust operations due to the lack of manpower.

Former PDEA 7 director Julius Navales, who is now assigned at the National Capital Region, said he had no problem working with Tabanao.

“Sayang siya talaga (What a shame). Baka may nasagasaan lang siyang tao sa kanyang (He may have angered someone in his) radio program,” he said.

Other tasks

Levi Ortiz, former deputy director of PDEA 7, said Tabanao was hardworking and would go beyond his normal responsibilities.

He said Tabanao would feed information to the agency regarding an illegal drug trade that would lead to a buy-bust.

Tabanao’s task was to beef up security during operations and not to arrest drug pushers or peddlers, Ortiz said.

During his stint at PDEA 7, Ortiz, who is now assigned in Zamboanga City, said Tabanao

never received any threats.

Tabanao’s family and friends created a Facebook page called “Justice for Jessie Tabanao.” As of yesterday, the page had more than 200 likes.

In an earlier interview, his wife Katrina, who is due to give birth in October, said they were planning to have a church wedding next year.

The fact that Tabanao was killed on the eve of the first day of Press Freedom Week has several media groups up in arms.

The Cebu Citizens-Press Council (CCPC) is asking police to speed up the investigation.

‘Breach of order’

According to the press statement signed by CCPC executive director Pachico Seares, the CCPC hopes the investigation will determine the motive for the shooting, whether it was because of his work as a public information officer of PDEA or because of his being an anchorperson of a weekly radio program against drugs.

“Whatever the motive, the murder cannot be condoned. It is breach of order in our peace-loving community and, if he was killed for what he talked about on radio, an assault on the right to free speech,” read the CCPC statement.

Meanwhile, the Cebu Federation of Beat Journalists (CFBJ) passed a resolution condemning the shooting and other killings in Cebu.

It urged authorities to expedite the investigation and immediately arrest those responsible so justice could be served.

The CFBJ, the biggest media organization outside Metro Manila, is composed of 11 Cebu media beat organizations.

The Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas Cebu chapter also condemned the killing.

“…This (the shooting) is an assault to the broadcast industry in Cebu which coincidentally is celebrating the Broadcasters’ Month,” its statement read.

“This extra-judicial killing has definitely no place in a free society like hours. We are saddened and alarmed by this horrific event, but let it not be a stumbling block in our exercise of freedom of expression and of the press as enshrined in our Constitution” it said.

The Capitol also expressed its condolences to Tabanao’s family.

The Provincial Board yesterday approved a resolution authored by Jose Ribomapil Holganza Jr. and Carmen Remedios Durano Meca.