A PASTOR was gunned down by two unidentified motorcycle-riding men in Barangay Bonbon yesterday afternoon.
Crisostomo Maternal Jr., an evangelist in the Baptist Bonbon Mission Church, was a known anti-drug crusader in their barangay.
He was also a supporter of the Bando Osmeña-Pundok Kauswagan (BOPK), Cebu City Acting Mayor Margarita Osmeña confirmed in a news conference.
“Hugtanon man ni siya sa illegal drugs. We’re looking into the possibility nga mga drug pushers ang nitira niya, (He was critical of illegal drugs and so we’re looking into the possibility that drug pushers killed him),” SPO2 Ruth Bongo-Violango of the Homicide section of the Cebu City Police Office said.
Maternal was also an active member of the Barangay Intelligence Network (BIN) and his participation in anti-drug operations is one of the motives homicide investigators are looking into.
A source from the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) who asked not to be named said that the pastor was a member of BIN in the mountain barangay of Bonbon and often helped them during their operations.
Senior Insp. Elisandro Quijano, chief of the Homicide Section, said he will also not rule out the possibility that Maternal’s involvement in politics was one reason he was killed.
Residents of Barangay Bonbon respected the 46-year-old pastor who had a small following in their place who helped him in his campaign.
According to the initial investigation, Maternal and his companions were on their way home from a Bible study in their church at 5:30 p.m.
He rode a motorcycle that someone else drove, in a convoy with two other motorcycles.
A fourth motorcycle suddenly overtook them and kicked the motorcycle on the left side of Maternal, who was in the center of the convoy.
The pastor’s companions fell down on the road, and the suspects must have seen it as their chance to shoot him.
The back rider of the fourth motorcycle then shot Maternal in his left ear and the bullet went through his temple. It also killed him.
He reportedly didn’t wear a helmet at that time.
Maternal had received a death threat the day before he was slain by the unidentified men.
The accident prompted a high-ranking official to remind BIN members and volunteers not to directly handle crime, but only to inform the police of possible suspects.
Senior Supt. Benjamin Santos of the Cebu City Police Office (CCPO) advised BIN members to be extra-careful when giving secret information to the police and to avoid responding without police back-up.
“Please refrain from making negotiations and leave the neutralizing to the police,” he said in an interview with Sun.Star Cebu.
Santos also urged them to use cellphone numbers and not their real names when contacting the police to respond to threats in their community.
Under Cebu City Mayor-elect Tomas Osmeña’s suggestion to revive Oplan Pakigsandurot, where the police will live in the barangays, BIN members will have closer back-up in case a dangerous situation will arise.
He said that this will protect the BIN from further suspicions from criminals in their barangays.
In case the BIN would like to buy guns for their protection, Santos pledged to help during the registration of these firearms.
Police Supt. Michael Michael Bastes, chief of the City Intelligence Branch (CIB), said his unit has around 300 BIN members, including the trackers.
He is mulling to give them insurance coverage in case something happens to them in the line of their voluntary duty.
Bastes stressed that the BIN members play a crucial role in tracking down dangerous elements in the barangays.
Acting mayor Osmeña said drugs is being eyed as a possible motive for the shooting.
“He was a very simple man. He was a very staunch fighter against drugs, crime and abuse...so it’s possible that drugs may be a motive,” she said.
The acting mayor and her husband, Mayor-elect Tomas Osmeña rushed to Perpetual Succour Hospital upon hearing the news about Maternal, who was a father of seven.
“Somebody was asking why I was in Perpetual last night. I was there because of him (Maternal). Tommy was there also because we wanted to see what we can do to help,” she said.
Osmeña said that Maternal’s companions during the ambush told her they could identify the two men who attacked him.
The acting mayor added that Maternal had been a BOPK supporter for many years now.