A Special Investigation Task Force (SITG) has been formed to focus on the probe of the alleged robbery at the residence of congressional candidate Eulogio Rodriguez in Batalay, Bato last May 3, 2022, with the police still scrambling to find clues.
No less than the PNP officer-in-charge, Lt. Gen. Vicente Danao Jr., from his office in Manila through Zoom, presided over a meeting last week with Catanduanes provincial police director Col. Benjamin Balingbing Jr, key provincial staff and all 11 police chiefs at Camp Camacho to discuss the investigation of the alleged election-related incident, a police officer told the Tribune on condition of anonymity.
Deputy Regional Director for Operations (DRDO) Col. Rodolfo Castil Jr. has been named supervisor of SITG “Batalay” which has been ordered to conduct an in-depth investigation.
The task group has adopted a multi-agency approach to synchronize courses of action of all law enforcement agencies to uncover the motive and identify persons of interest that will lead to the resolution of the case, Catanduanes police spokesperson Maj. Emsol Icawat said in a statement.
The Tribune source confirmed that a team from the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) regional office has already coordinated with the police in conducting a parallel probe.
Both police and NBI teams have yet to unearth vital clues and are still taking statements from possible witnesses in the neighboring houses in Batalay as well as checking CCTV cameras along the lone road out of the Batalay area, another source told the Tribune.
According to the report sent to Camp Francisco Camacho by Bato Municipal Police Station officer-in-charge Lt. Lorenzo Alberto, a concerned citizen called the station at about 8:50 PM of May 3, 2022 to inform that more or less nine (9) unidentified men forcibly barged into the house of former Bato Mayor Leo Rante Rodriguez, 62, in barangay Batalay.
Lt. Alberto and the investigator on duty immediately proceeded to the coastal village and interviewed the former mayor; his wife Melinda Alaurin Rodriguez; 61, IT staff Prudence Metiam Zuñiga, 24, of San Roque, Bato; Bato LGU employee Sherwin Tapel Torres, 44, of Libod Poblacion; Bato LGU employee Raymong dela Cruz Teston, 36, of Mintay; house helper Rowena Molina Torres, 40, of Bote; Maureen Taroy Rodriguez, 45, of Buenavista; construction supervisor Ma. Sylvia Tenerife Rodriguez, 47, of Binanuahan; Felix Ecay Domagan, 54, of Malibay, Pasay City; Ruel Sapotalo Entrena, 50, of Oriol St., Monville Subdivision, Parañaque City; security guard Jefrey Palacio Prieto, 29, of San Francisco Halang, Binan, Laguna; and, security guard Wenceslao Alcaide Mañebo, 61, of Villa Remedios, Halang, Calamba City.
According to the victims and the witnesses, Rowena Torres was in the terrace at the back portion of the house at about 8:30 PM when she saw several unidentified persons, wearing fatigue uniforms and black bonnets and armed with long and short firearms, climbing up the steel fence.
Once inside the compound, the suspects ordered the two civilian security aides, Domagan and Entrena, to lie down on the ground.
The armed men trained their guns on the two men, handcuffed them and divested them of their wallets and cellular phones.
Upon seeing this, Torres immediately went inside the house and locked the back door, but the suspects used hard objects to destroy the doorknob.
Inside the house, they ordered Torres, Maureen Rodriguez and Ma. Sylvia Rodriguez to drop to the fllor and then took their cellphones.
Some of the perpetrators ransacked the drawers, cabinets and tables at the living room while the others went to the second floor, destroyed the doors of the two bedrooms and ransacked the drawers and cabinets.
Inside one of the rooms, they tied the hands of Zuñiga using a black cable tie and ordered Teston and Sherwin Torres to lie prone on the floor.
Mrs. Rodriguez, on the other hand, was able to hide in the space behind the headboard of the bed, the report claimed.
Thereafter, it said, the suspects took two carton boxes containing paper bills amounting to more or less P10 million each and several boxes of wine and liquor.
The witnesses also claimed that the other armed men also tied the hands of Prieto, the guard at the main gate of the Rodriguez compound while the other guard, Wenceslao Mañebo, was able to escape.
After a few minutes, the initial report said, the suspects left the compound, fired a rifle once and boarded two gray vans, fleeing towards an unknown direction.
Mrs. Rodriguez said her husband was not present during the incident as he was conducting a campaign rally in Virac.
Lt. Alberto stated that he immediately reported the matter to the acting provincial director and coordinated with the Provincial Tactical Operation Center (PTOC) for the conduct of a dragnet operation and establishment of chokepoint along possible exit routes of the fleeing suspects.
Recovered at the crime scene were four handcuffs, several pieces of empty sacks and three pieces of black cable tie presumably left behind by the unknown perpetrators.
A later statement from the Catanduanes police said that the entire incident at the Rodriguez house took more or less 15 minutes from the entry to the exit of the alleged robbers.
One of the guards also sustained injuries after he was punched and hit with the butt of a gun by one of the suspects.
The same report also said the CCTV system at the Rodriguez compound was not able to record the incident or parts of it as it was allegedly damaged during super typhoon Rolly in November 2020.
Nobody was able to record the plate numbers of the two gray vans used as getaway vehicles of the suspects.