MANILA – Presidential Task Force on Media Security (PTFoMS) Executive Director Joel Sy Egco warned local officials in Negros Oriental not to obstruct the investigation into the murder of radioman Rex Cornelio Pepino in Dumaguete City on May 5.
Egco issued the warning after probers identified that at least one vehicle registered to an office under the Negros Oriental provincial government was allegedly seen tailing Pepino’s motorcycle before he was killed.
“Do not obstruct probers on Pepino murder. We will follow where the evidence leads us. Charge those who will hamper your investigation,” Egco told the Philippine National Police (PNP) and National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) agents in a video conference on May 20.
During the meeting, PNP Dumaguete City chief, Lt. Col. Wilfredo Alarcon Jr. and NBI Agent-in-charge, lawyer Jose Ermie A. Monsato reported major breakthroughs in their investigation, including the identification of some persons of interest (POIs) and the alleged sedan used in tailing the victim.
During the meeting also attended by Department of Justice (DOJ) Undersecretary Markk Perete and PTFoMS Secretariat, investigators said they have very strong leads as to who could be behind the attack on Pepino, adding involvement of some local government officials and personnel is not far-fetched after the identification of the local government-registered vehicle.
"Do what you have to do. I know the intense pressure you are experiencing there. Do not be cowed by anyone,” Egco said. “Those who will come in the way and obstruct will be dealt with accordingly.”
He said “all these findings” will be reported to President Rodrigo Duterte, Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra and Communications Secretary Martin Andanar.
Egco called the video conference after learning of the identification of the vehicles allegedly used in the killing and the mysterious circumstances surrounding the death of one of the POIs.
"It's theatrical. Just like in the movies where one of the suspects is killed to tie some loose ends. Hindi naman tayo pinanganak kahapon (we were not born yesterday)," he said.
Upon Perete’s recommendation, the Task Force will form “AO1 Task Force Pepino” to be led by a local National Prosecution Service official. The Department of Justice, under Guevarra, sits as chair of PTFoMS.
Perete gave instructions to secure the victim's wife, Coleen, and to place her under the Witness Protection Program.
For his part, Andanar, co-chair of PTFoMS, assured the Pepino family that “the government will not rest until the brains behind Cornelio’s murder has been identified and brought to justice.”
The special investigation task group (SITG) Pepino led by Negros Oriental Provincial Police Office director, Col. Julian Entoma has positively identified the car used as surveillance and getaway vehicle in the incident.
CCTV footages obtained by the task force showed that a gray Toyota Vios with conduction number 072806 was seen parked near the radio station of DYMD Energy FM in Barangay Calindagan, Dumaguete City on the night of the incident and was later seen tailing Pepino after he left the station with his wife on board a motorcycle.
The car’s registration was traced to the Provincial Assessor’s Office of Negros Oriental indicating possible involvement of local government officials.
Egco bewailed reports that some local officials are giving probers a hard time in accessing evidence.
Police investigators obtained a court-issued warrant to search the car and recovered crucial evidence from the vehicle, including latent fingerprints of its occupants around the time of the killing. The task force is also actively searching for an orange sedan that was allegedly used also by the suspects.
Investigators are likewise looking into the mysterious death of a POI that was linked to the murder. The POI was shot and killed by unidentified motorcycle-riding gunmen on May 12, 2020 just before policemen could serve a search warrant at his house.
Egco stressed that more breakthroughs in the case are forthcoming, including the naming of suspects and filing of murder charges against them as the task force winds up the investigation.
“It’s becoming increasingly clear that the motive behind the killing of Rex Conelio Pepino was to silence him. We are on the verge of solving this case. PTFoMS will not leave any stone unturned until the perpetrators and the mastermind behind this gruesome act are put behind bars,” Egco said.
Pepino was a veteran commentator and a known critic of local politicians. He hosted “Pokpokin mo Baby” that aired over DYMD Energy FM 93.7. He was killed execution-style after being shot five times at point-blank range right in front of his wife.
The Task Force, as always, is on top of the situation. It is closely coordinating with local law enforcers and monitoring the continuing investigation. (PR)