Councilman killed, companion wounded in Cebu shooting

(Updated) -- Homicide investigators are looking into the possible involvement of San Isidro barangay councilor Neil Abella of San Fernando, Cebu, in illegal drugs in relation to his death early morning Friday, April 13.

Abella was tagged by self-confessed drug lord Franz Sabalones last 2016 after the latter surrendered to Philippine National Police (PNP) Chief Ronald Dela Rosa, said Cebu City Police Office (CCPO) Director Senior Supt. Joel Doria.

“The incident is drug-related and we are looking at the background because, initially, we found out that he was part of the list that was released and he was the alleged bagman of an alleged drug lord,” Doria said.

Abella was with businessman Enric Clint Alesna, 41, and the latter’s girlfriend when they parked a yellow Honda Fit at 1:05 a.m. Friday.

The three ate inside a fast food joint for a few minutes, then returned to the car.

Abella was backing out of the fast food joint’s parking area when a man armed with a .45 pistol approached the driver’s side and shot him thrice.

Abella died on the spot. All three gunshots hit his face.

Alesna sustained a gunshot wound on his right arm, while his girlfriend was unharmed.

Doria said that police investigators are not discounting the possibility that the crime was politically motivated but are focusing on the drug angle for now.

A colleague said that Abella had surrendered to the local police a year ago in response to the Tokhang operations, when the authorities approached suspected players in the illegal drug trade and persuaded them to surrender.

Barangay San Isidro Captain Francisco Medicielo told SunStar Cebu that he and his fellow councilors had advised Abella to voluntarily turn himself in to the police and answer suspicions that he was involved in illegal drugs.

Abella was reportedly a drug user who eventually decided to reform, upon his colleagues’ advice, Medicielo said.

“We are coordinating with the San Fernando Police Station so that we can know the other details that may be used in the investigation. A witness said that there was only one gunman so we’re looking for the closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras in the area for us to, we hope, identify the suspect,” Doria said.

Police Regional Office (PRO) 7 Director Chief Supt. Robert Quenery directed the CCPO to file charges against the gunman.

Senior Insp. Adrian Nalua, San Fernando’s police chief, said his intelligence operatives told him that Abella had facilitated the payoffs for protectors of Sabalones. He was described as a bagman.

He confirmed that Abella was one of the drug surrenderers in San Fernando last November 2016. Police continued to monitor Abella after his surrender and observed that he rarely went home.

Last year, Abella’s nephew, who stayed in his house in San Fernando, was arrested in a drug bust. Nalua said that Abella had told his nephew to stop.

Operatives of Criminal Investigation and Detection Group 7 and San Fernando Police Station raided Abella’s house early this year, but no evidence was seized.

Barangay Captain Medicielo said that Abella was always present during their bi-monthly sessions but would often return to Cebu City, where he and his family have been living since he surrendered to the police.

Abella, a first-term councilor, had told Medicielo that he had no plans to run for a second term in next month’s Barangay and SK elections. (With JKV & KAL)
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