FORMER Iligan City Mayor Celso G. Regencia surrendered to authorities Monday morning, ending months on the run following accusations that he was behind last year’s ambush of Iligan Representative Vicente Belmonte in Laguindingan, Misamis Oriental.
Regencia, who will face off with Belmonte in Iligan’s mayoralty derby in the 2016 elections, gave himself up to Presiding Judge Arthur L. Abundiente of Branch 4 of the Regional Trial Court of Iligan.
Regencia, a former police chief of Iligan, was accompanied by Supt. Leonie Roy Ga and Supt. Arnel Catarata who served the warrant of arrest issued some two months ago for the ambush on December 11, 2014 that killed three of Belmonte’s bodyguards.
"He wanted somebody whom he can trust. I suppose in Iligan he can trust me. He asked me to assist him so that he will surrender," Abundiente said.
He said Regencia was persuaded to turn himself in after negotiators pointed out that the only way he can prove his innocence was to face the accusations against him in court.
Abundiente said they have been negotiating with Regencia for his surrender since Saturday.
Regencia did not reveal where he had been hiding.
He was brought to the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) facility in Barangay Tipanoy, Iligan.
Asked why he issued the commitment order when the ambush took place in Misamis Oriental, Abundiente said he was the only judge in Iligan on Monday because the other judges were on leave.
"I am the Judge in Initao, Misamis Orientel and Regencia surrendered to me. I am a person in authority,” Abundiente said.
Asked for comment on Regencia’s surrender, Belmonte said the former mayor can finally answer the charges against him.
“At least the trial can start and we are confident that he will be convicted and we have sufficient evidence to prove (the allegations)," Belmonte said.
Shots were fired at Belmonte’s convoy of two pick-up trucks shortly after it left Laguindingan Airport.
Belmonte suffered slight injuries but three of his bodyguards were killed. Three others in Belmonte’s party were also wounded.
One of the alleged gunmen, identified as Dominador Tumala of Osmeña town, Zamboanga del Norte, was later arrested.
Tumala pointed to Regencia as the mastermind of the ambush.
One of Regencia’s co-accused, PO1 Peejay Capangpangan, is also a suspect in the August 2013 murder of Iligan broadcaster Fernando Solijon.