Seares: Imok murder: catching the mastermind

IT MUST be the reason there was a bit of a letdown when police solved the killing of Ermita, Cebu City Barangay Captain Felicisimo Rupinta less than 24 hours after he was ambushed in his Isuzu pickup and gunned down last Nov. 23.

Too soon? For those who wanted the whodunit to move on for some time, it was like the crime suspect in a TV crime series being caught and the mystery unraveled after the first commercial.

But it was a pleasant surprise, more so to those who take pride in Cebu being a peaceful “island in the Pacific.” Those disappointed must have wanted a different result from the investigation.

Suspects identified

Police Regional Chief Jose Mario Espino announced the arrest of one Jimmy Largo, alleged gunman, and the identification, though names weren’t given yet, of four others linked to the killing. Including, and that was the impressive part, the mastermind.

The “brains” of a high-profile crime is often the hardest to catch. Usually shrewder than the muscle and the guns, the principal who orders the execution sets up buffer and layers that isolate him from the hired killers.

They say the mastermind who gets caught is dumb, cocky, or unlucky, or a mix of them. In Rupinta’s murder, the killers riding on two motorcycles apparently weren’t too smart when they struck in Liloan, Cebu where the ambush took place. They reportedly showed their faces to the witness, Rupinta’s live-in companion, one Jocelyn Mendoza. They wore no hood or bonnet and spared Mendoza who later identified Largo to the police. Worse, it turned out, the gunman was close to the Rupinta couple, a dash of drama to the story and a boost to her testimony.

Tomas as suspect

Until the mastermind and the three other suspects are cuffed and indicted, it’s not over yet. But police announced a “90% solution,” topped by (1) the gunman’s arrest and (2) the finding that it didn’t involve politics.

Which must have dampened Mayor Tomas Osmeña’s political rivals who suspected he must have something to do with Rupinta’s death. They didn’t name the mayor but even Tomas conceded he was inevitably a suspect because of his widely publicized clashes with Rupinta on a number of issues, including Imok’s defection from Tomas’s BOPK to Team Rama (now PDP Barug).

Even with Espino’s disclosure that it had something to do with Rupinta’s “work as barangay captain and his job of cleansing the barangay,” anti-Osmeña councilors, who raised P300,000 as reward money to get the killers, were reluctant to accept that theory, coaxing police to be more thorough.

Nailing down

The police will soon wind up its investigation but pinning down the mastermind involves more than jailing the suspect and charging him. The body of evidence, which the police assemble, must hurdle the prosecutor’s office and stand in court. Often too, the mastermind gets off the hook by inadequate evidence or sloppy prosecution.

Clearly, the police have so far done a fine job. They can do better if they will have built solid evidence to convict every culprit in the crime. People don’t just want to know who did it; they also want them punished.

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