SO THE suspects in the killing of Cebu-based businessman Richard King in Davao City last June 12 have been arrested?
If the claim of the Police Regional Office (PRO) 11 and the Davao City Police Office (DCPO) were to be believed, the lone gunman, now identified as Paul Dave Molina Labang, 24, of Toril had two accomplices in brothers Rommel and Rodel de la Cerna. Rommel provided the info on King’s whereabouts while Rodel drove the getaway motorcycle.
But the information emanating from Davao City about the arrest of the three suspects is rather intriguing. Rommel de la Cerna, who surrendered to the police and who provided information about Labang, claimed that a police officer, later identified as Police Supt. Leonardo Felonia, issued the order that eventually led to the killing of King.
A Sun.Star Davao report said Felonia is head of the Regional Intelligence Unit (RIU)-Davao Region of the Philippine National Police (PNP)-Intelligence Group.
I was initially stumped because when I googled the organizational setup of PRO 11 where Davao City policemen belong, there is no RIU, only a Regional Intelligence Office for Southern Mindanao (RIOSM). There is also no such division as “Davao Region” in PRO 11. PRO 11 straddles not only the Davao areas (Davao Norte, Davao Oriental, Davao Sur and Davao City) plus Compostela Valley.
It turned out that the RIU-Davao Region that Felonia is heading is a distinct geographical division of the PNP-IG, an operational support unit that follows a chain separate from PRO 11.
A further check showed that the RIU is the current name of the old Regional Security Unit (RSU), a force under the Philippine Constabulary-Integrated National Police (PC-INP), precursor of the PNP. I have “fond” memories of the RSU 7 because I was arrested by its elements in 1987.
The PNP-IG is the primary intelligence and counter-intelligence operational support unit of the PNP. Why the head of its unit in Davao is linked to the killing of King is what makes this development intriguing.
Felonia surrendered to Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte and promptly denied the allegation made by Rommel de la Cerna, who is also said to be a police informant. “That’s why I am here. I am submitting myself to investigation,” Felonia told reporters. The latest report is that he has been relieved from his post.
Felonia actually maintains a blog (leonardofelonia.wordpress.com), which states that he is from Arakan Valley, North Cotabato and entered the service under the now defunct Philippine Constabulary (PC) in 1986 as a second lieutenant. He is a criminology graduate and is a decorated officer, spending most of his police career in Davao City.
To be fair, it is still too early to say that the arrested suspects are not fall guys and that Felonia really had a hand in King’s slay. But there are interesting points that can be noted here.
One, if the narration by Rommel de la Cerna is to be believed, the suspects are not first-timers in such an operation. One would not order a hit through a mere phone call if the machinery isn’t already in place. Isn’t Davao City the home of anti-crime “vigilantes”?
Two, Felonia’s denial can be true or it can be a lie (or why would Rommel de la Cerna mention him?). Now, if what de la Cerna said is true, did Felonia do it on his own or did somebody order him to? And is the motive personal or is it “work”-related?
The suspects in the killing of King may already be in police custody, but things have only become more intriguing.