DEVELOPMENT.  Philippine National Police chief Gen. Rodolfo Azurin Jr. answers questions from the media in a press briefing at the PNP headquarters on Monday (Jan. 23, 2023). Azurin said they hope to see a breakthrough in the case of a missing online cockfighting master agent in Laguna following the surrender of three dismissed police officers. (PNA photo by Lloyd Caliwan)

MANILA – The Philippine National Police (PNP) on Monday expressed hope that the recent surrender of three dismissed police officers would shed light on the case of a missing online cockfighting master agent in Laguna.

PNP chief Gen. Rodolfo Azurin Jr. said Daryl Paghangaan, Roy Navarete and Regil Brosas are now under police custody.

“We are looking for a good breakthrough especially if they are going to cooperate because we have been investigating this case for a long time,” Azurin in a press briefing at Camp Crame in Quezon City on Monday.

Based on the report of Brig. Gen. Warren de Leon, chief of the Integrity Monitoring and Enforcement Group (IMEG), Brosas surrendered to the Rizal municipal police at 2:45 p.m. on Jan. 19, while Paghangaan surrendered five hours later to the Liliw municipal police in Laguna. Navarete turned himself in on Jan. 21 to the Calauan municipal police, also in Laguna.

“Of course, the only assurance that we can give them is we see that they have a lesser participation, we can course them through the witness protection program (WPP) and it will be the WPP who will be evaluating if they are qualified to be protected under the WPP program,” Azurin said.

He also assured the safety of the families of the suspects.

The suspects have an arrest warrant issued by the San Pablo City, Laguna Regional Trial Court Branch 29 on charges of robbery, kidnapping and serious illegal detention with no bail recommended.

Brosas, then a patrolman, and Paghangaan, then a staff sergeant, were among those who allegedly pretended to be agents of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) when they took Ricardo Lasco from his house in San Pablo City, Laguna on Aug. 30, 2021.

They were also accused of taking cash and other valuable personal belongings inside Lasco's house.

The three cops along with two others identified as Michael Claveria and Henry Sasaluya were dismissed from the service in December 2022 as the PNP's Internal Affairs Service has found substantial evidence on the administrative charges filed against them in relation to Lasco’s disappearance.

“Hopefully with this breakthrough sabi ko nga sana yung mga ibang cases pa ng mga e-sabong na iniimbestigahan ng ating CIDG (Criminal Investigation and Detection Group) ay tulungan nila yung PNP because the family of these missing sabungeros are really up to now are suffering dahil yung mga mahal nila sa buhay (Hopefully with this breakthrough that the other cases of e-cockpits that our CIDG is investigating will help the PNP because the families of these missing sabungeros are really up to now are suffering because their loved ones),” Azurin said.

The case of Lasco is one of eight cases being handled by the CIDG's Special Investigation Task Group “Sabungero”, which took the case for further investigation after the complaint for kidnapping filed by the victim’s family before the San Pablo City, Laguna prosecutor's office was dismissed.

Lasco is still considered "missing" and the CIDG is probing the cases involving the disappearance of 34 other e-sabong enthusiasts since 2020.

To date, the CIDG has filed cases against at least 15 personalities in connection with the missing e-sabong aficionados. (PNA)