MANILA – The Presidential Task Force on Media Security (PTFoMS) said a missing cop holds the key to solving the killing of radio broadcaster Cornelio “Rex” Pepino in Dumaguete City.
Citing reports from local investigators, the PTFoMS said Police Executive Master Sergeant (PEMS) Ruel D. Pinero of Negros Oriental Provincial Police Office (NOPPO) and another policeman are among the persons of interest (POIs) in the Pepino murder case.
According to reports received by the PTFOMs, Pinero was allegedly “picked up” against his will by high-ranking officials of the Philippine National Philippine (PNP) citing a video showing him in the company of other police officers before boarding a helicopter en route to Manila from Cebu that has been circulating in social media.
"We have very strong reason to believe that PEMS Pinero is now in the hands of higher PNP officials and for that we will seek a clarification from the PNP leadership," PTFoMS Executive Director and Undersecretary Joel Sy Egco said.
The National Press Club (NPC) of the Philippines, in an official letter to PTFoMS, has requested "assistance” in locating Pinero after his wife, Nelly Pinero, made a public plea to the PNP leadership to find her missing husband in a press conference on Aug. 12.
The NPC also noted that another POI in the case, a certain NOPPO police officer Melvin Bulandres, was also reported missing. Bulandres was said to be a close colleague of Pinero and have “crucial knowledge” about Pepino’s killing.
The NPC through Vice President Paul Gutierrez sought the PTFoMS’s assistance in confirming the actual whereabouts of Pinero and Bulandres.
"Both policemen can shed light on Pepino’s murder which has drawn condemnation from local, national and international media and human rights organizations,”” the NPC said.
Meanwhile, the PTFoMS will start a new round of investigations into the murder of Pepino following the designation of Administrative Order 1 (AO1) Prosecutor Kelly Eusebio P. Catalan to lead the Special Investigation Team for New Cases (SITN) earlier convened by Justice Secretary and PTFoMS chairman Menardo Guevarra.
Guevarra explained that “it is imperative that there is a pro-active involvement of the prosecutor during the criminal investigation of cases involving media violence and other egregious human rights violations.”
"Let us put our trust in our institutions and the justice system. There will be no sacred cows. There will be no coverup. I sincerely hope that those behind this dastardly act will have their day in court," Egco said.
Egco earlier warned local officials in Negros Oriental not to obstruct the investigation of the case.
He issued the warning after probers positively identified a car used as surveillance and getaway vehicle in the murder was traced to the provincial government.
Egco also voiced concern when National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) agents investigating the case were subjected to serious threats and harassment by some unscrupulous individuals in the province.
Pepino was a veteran commentator and 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 by motorcycle-riding gunmen right in front of his wife on May 20, 2020 in Dumaguete City. (PR)