“We will pursue justice to the very end but we will also seek peace and an end to the cycle of violence.”
This was the message that the family of Viga Municipal Social Welfare and Development Officer Carmel A. Eubra wanted the world to know following the senseless killing of their loved one in the capital town of Virac last May 24, 2022.
Eubra, 43, was laid to rest in her hometown of Pandan last Sunday afternoon, May 29, just five days after she was shot to death by a riding-in-tandem gunman at 5:20 PM while on her way to a house where she stayed in Ocean View Subdivision in barangay San Isidro Village.
According to the official police reports as well as information from reliable sources, Eubra was in Virac beginning Monday morning, May 23, as she was allegedly due to appear at the Municipal Trial Court of Virac for the arraignment of the concubinage and prostitution cases filed against her and a retired accountant by the latter’s wife, a retired prosecutor.
The arraignment did not push through, according to a source at the Hall of Justice, as the complainant objected to her choice of counsel, with the next hearing set for June 2.
Eubra also attended a seminar for local social welfare and development officers at RHAJ Inn in barangay Gogon Centro that also began on Monday.
It was at near the Gogon rotunda that she boarded her Mitsubishi Expander (EAD3661) for what turned out to be her last trip to the house owned by a high school principal where she stayed while in the capital town.
She apparently took the nearest route, the national highway that passed in front of the Virac police station before she turned left at the corner of Catanduanes Home Depot in San Isidro Village.
Near the Provincial Engineering Office (PEO) compound, Eubra turned right and was about to turn left towards the subdivision gate when two men on board a motorcycle sped towards her along the road fronting the residence of former Baras Mayor Chito Chi.
The gunman riding pillion fired once at the car, hitting the left passenger window, before firing again through the driver’s window at Eubra.
She was hit once at the left front portion of her neck, with the bullet exiting at her back below her right shoulder.
With the driver fatally wounded, the automatic transmission car never made the turn to the left, leaving the concrete road towards the grassy portion beyond before stopping about five meters away.
It is claimed that the house helper heard the gunshots, came out and thought that the car was trying to park.
An off-duty police officer living nearby also heard the gunfire and went out to investigate but the riding-in-tandem suspects were no longer in the area.
A fuzzy CCTV footage from a nearby home showed the two suspects on a black Honda XRM motorcycle arriving in the area minutes before the Viga MSWD officer approached.
The duo turned into a side street and made a U-turn, apparently to wait for their target’s car.
Both were wearing shorts, jackets and full-face safety helmets and thus could not be identified.
The police have yet to report if its CCTV system, which covers the national highway from the capitol to Bigaa, was able to capture the victim’s car as well as the suspect’s motorcycle as they passed along that stretch from Gogon rotunda to the Catanduanes Home Depot junction.
Responding personnel of the Philippine Red Cross’ Emergency Rescue Unit found her slumped on her seat, without a pulse and with her eyes dilated, indicating she was already dead at the time,
Processing of the crime scene by the Catanduanes Provincial Forensic Unit led to the discovery of two bullet holes in the vehicle, two empty shells of Cal. 45 and a slug of the same caliber.
Both the shells and the slug are now undergoing a more extensive examination at the PNP Regional Forensic Unit.
Postmortem examination conducted at the Virac Municipal Health Office of the victim’s body, still clad in the Viga LGU uniform, showed that the bullet entered the left side of her neck and exited at the right portion of her back just below the shoulder.
Medical Officer V Ruth Dy pronounced the cause of death as cardiorespiratory failure secondary to gunshot wound.
Eubra’s murder immediately drew expressions of condemnation and grief from local authorities, including Viga Mayor Emeterio Tarin, who described her as a hardworking employee of the local government and called for the speedy identification and arrest of the suspects.
In a statement on Facebook, the Association of Local Social Welfare and Development Officers of the Philippines (ALSWDOPI) – Catanduanes condemned the sudden death of their beloved colleague and strongly urged the concerned and partner authorities to ensure justice through progressive investigation and appropriate legal actions towards case resolution.
“As co-implementer in the field of social welfare and social protection, this heartbreaking incident to a dedicated and committed frontline service provider is a felt loss,” the group stressed. “Let justice be served!”
Eubra is the either 9th or 10th victim of riding-in-tandem killers since businessman Larry Que was shot at the back of the head at San Isidro Village while entering a car insurance office on Dec. 19, 2016.
Three years later, on Dec. 6, 2019, capitol employee Marcus Daxenos Besa was shot in the head while sitting in his car near his home by an Armalite-wielding gunman on board another motorcycle driven by an accomplice.
Less than two months later, on Jan. 21, 2020, Councilor Zaldy Idanan, a drug surrenderee, survived an ambush while driving home from Caramoran poblacion. There were no clues to the identities of the riding-in-tandem suspects.
On Feb. 8, 2020, another of the Besa brothers, Samuel Jr., 34, was on board his black Kawasaki Rouser bound for the family home at Salvacion when one of two unidentified suspects on board a motorcycle shot him several times using a firearm of unknown caliber.
Then on Sept. 30, 2020, contractor Jesus Albaniel, a close associate of the Caramoran councilor, was on board his tricycle then being driven by a friend when two men on a motorcycle tailed the vehicle and then fired at the engineer several times.
On Feb. 8, 2021, former Asgad, San Andres barangay captain Lea Vallespin, 45, was found lying on the roadside beside her motorcycle in Bislig around 6 p.m.
Residents thought that Vallespin met a road accident but when they tried to help her, they discovered bullet wounds on her body and empty shells in the area, a report said.
According to sketchy reports, Vallespin was bound for Asgad after a day’s work at Catanduanes Doctors Hospital Inc. (CDHI) in Virac, where she was a collector of unsettled accounts, when she was shot at the back by unidentified, motorcycle-riding suspects who had apparently tailed her.
On March 31, 2021, two abaca strippers – brothers Jaime and Louie Pantila – were on board a motorcycle when they were shot to death along the national road in Progreso, San Miguel. It could not be determined if the suspects were riding-in-tandem killers.
Four months later, on July 23, 2021, heavy equipment operator Sandy Tesorero was on his way home together with a fellow worker when their way was blocked by two unidentified persons riding-in-tandem at Buenavista, Viga.
Tesorero was shot nine times for a still unknown reason, although there were reports he might have incurred the ire of relatives of three other women with whom he had relations aside from his wife.
Five of the still unsolved killings are said to be drug-related, with the police floating a connection to the New People’s Army insurgency in four other cases.
The Eubra family has reportedly requested the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to conduct a parallel investigation into the killing of the Viga LGU department head.