A BOUNTY of P300,000 has been raised by some members of Barug Team Rama for anyone who can provide information leading to the arrest of the assailants of Cebu City Ermita Barangay Captain Felicisimo “Imok” Rupinta.
The controversial village chief, who was a known ally of the group, was killed in an ambush in the northern town of Liloan last Thursday night, Nov. 23.
In a press conference yesterday, Vice Mayor Edgardo Labella said they are placing a cash reward to help hasten the call for justice following Rupinta’s death.
Mayor Tomas Osmeña, though, has not offered any cash reward and will let the police handle the matter.
“I don’t like to comment on things like that because people are looking at me, saying maybe I have something to do with it. So, I better just keep my hands off,” he told reporters.
Rupinta recently had a row with some Carbon market vendors over the collection of fees and his order to have some fish vendors move out of the area. The barangay outposts were demolished by City Hall barely a week after the vendors’ raised their complaints.
The barangay captain also made headlines last October for posting tarpaulins containing the words “This House is Drug-Free” outside houses in his village.
Although the activity was ordered stopped by the Commission on Human Rights 7, Rupinta had said that he decided to implement it because Ermita is one of the most drug-infested villages in the city.
All these developments occurred in a span of less than six months after Rupinta resumed office last July 31.
Last February, Rupinta and his seven barangay councilors were placed under preventive suspension by the Ombudsman Visayas for their alleged failure to support a drug raid in the area in November last year.
The mayor shared strong opinions about the village chief when these controversies broke.
“People are looking at me because I’m an enemy, so I don’t really like to say anything. If I say something, they will say I’m trying to twist the direction. But it could be any motive. Let’s just let the police do their job,” Osmeña said.
“There were angles on alleged rage, but it can’t be. This one is a plot. It involved teamwork, that’s what I’ve gathered. There were two motorcycles, it can’t be an instant that someone got angry,” he added.
During Barug Team Rama’s press con, Councilor Raymond Alvin Garcia also commented on the incident.
“Ang pagguba sa iyang mga tanod outposts, it’s very obvious… mga vendors, etc. I mean, dili na lang ko mungan og pangan. Pero ang akoa lang ba, at least mahibaw ang publiko kinsay malipay nga namatay si Imok. Ug dungag niana, kinsa ang kaaway ni Imok for the past how many weeks leading to his death. Kamo nalay surmise, kamo nalay tag-an og kinsa na ang akong pasabot, but ako, I’m just letting you know,” he added.
Labella, for his part, said the authorities should conduct a thorough investigation and look into all possible angles, including political and drug-related motives.
Yesterday, the barangay council of Ermita held a session presided by Councilor Mark Rizaldy Miral.
In a Balitang Bisdak report, Miral signed the letters of condolences and prayers sent by vendors and residents of the barangay.
Rupinta’s death shocked residents of the barangay, but a few were not surprised.
The barangay captain may even have had a premonition of his death days before last Thursday’s ambush, since he had been warning his constituents to watch out.
Hours before the ambush, barangay tanods said that Rupinta seemed to know he was going to be in imminent danger.
“Wa ka mahadlok magkuyog-kuyog nako nga patyunon baya ko,” Rupinta reportedly told one tanod after the former inspected Unit III of the Carbon Public Market.
During a session after a tanod was killed last month, Rupinta again warned his councilors to be careful.
“Dili ta mokompiyansa kay wa ta mahibawo kinsa ang atong kontra. Ako, kon molakaw ko molingi ko sa akong wala, molingi ko sa tuo, sa atubangan ug sa luyo, dapat mag-amping ta,” Councilwoman Maria Pino-Buanghug quoted him as saying.
But if he did receive threats, Rupinta never told the barangay council about them. It was the other way around. Yet, when he was confronted about these anonymous threats, he allegedly brushed them off.
“Kabalo man ko nga nay inana, Ginoo ray bahala, naa ray Ginoo nagtan-aw,” Marivic Regner quoted him as saying.
In a related development, Liloan Mayor Christina Frasco tasked the chief of the town police and other auxiliary forces to track down the four gunmen.
“As a law-abiding community, we hope for justice to be served. I have instructed our police and auxiliary forces to ensure the continued peace and security of Liloan,” Frasco added.
Frasco also extended condolences to Rupinta’s family, saying that his death came as a shock.
The Police Regional Office 7 is mulling to form a special investigation task group to track down Rupinta’s killers.
Senior Supt. Jonathn Cabal, Regional Intelligence Division chief, said that operatives are conducting a continuous hot pursuit against the four gunmen.
“The police are still collating all the possible pieces of evidence because we cannot leave any stones unturned and all angles are being looked into for the motive. That includes his work as a barangay captain as he was hogging the headlines due to his campaign against illegal vendors and drugs,” Cabal said. (JKV, SCG of Superbalita)