Murder case filed against Pangasinan Governor Espino and Congressman Celeste

12 February 2013

In a complaint filed today by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) before the National Prosecution Service (NPS), two (2) incumbent government officials, namely,  Pangasinan Provincial Governor AMADO T. ESPINO, JR. and Pangasinan 1st District Congressman JESUS "BOYONG" F. CELESTE, among others, are charged with instigating and plotting the killing of Infanta, Pangasinan Mayor RUPERTO MARTINEZ, who was gunned down last 15 December 2012 by two motorcycle-riding gunmen.

In the course of the NBI's investigation, a witness came forward claiming to have first-hand information about the involvement of ESPINO and CELESTE in the death of Mayor Martinez. Said witness is the 16 year-old son of a close associate or "tauhan" of Espino and Celeste, who is also alleged to be the person behind the publication of a weekly tabloid, which the witness was tasked to distribute to different towns in Pangasinan upon the instructions of his father, by leaving them in waiting sheds. Witness also served as a lackey and driver to his father. He said he was able to do so, even though he had no valid driver's license, because of his father's strong influence in the province. This arrangement meant that he was able accompany his father and observe the latter's dealings with his "bosses".

According to the witness, he was present during a meeting held sometime in November 2011, inside a room in the Iba, Zambales Provincial Capitol, wherein ESPINO, CELESTE, Zambales Governor HERMOGENES EBDANE and the witness  father were present. Seated in the same room just behind his father, witness claims to have heard ESPINO say to EBDANE that Mayor Martinez found out about the "black rock" ("itim na bato"), to which EBDANE responded that he, ESPINO, should take care of it since he's from Pangasinan. The meeting adjourned with  ESPINO,CELESTE  the witness' father and the witness himself leaving Governor EBDANE's office and proceeding to Bolinao, Pangasinan in a convoy of three vehicles - the first being ESPINO's, which was described as being colored black and looked like a big jeep; followed by CELESTE's, which appeared to be a white Toyota, Fortuner; and followed by  the vehicle of the father and son.

It was evening by the time they arrived at the El Pescador Beach Resort in Bolinao, which witness believes to be owned by Congressman CELESTE. There, ESPINO, CELESTE and the witness' father again discussed the matter of Mayor Martinez, and witness claims to have heard ESPINO say that Martinez has to be killed because the latter found out about their involvement with the "black rock" ("baka idiin daw sila tungkol sa itim na bato"), to which CELESTE responded that it wouldn't be a problem because he had a lot of "this" ("ganito"), completing the statement with a handgun gesture. CELESTE, thereafter, summoned a man he called "KARDO", whom he introduced as the man who could do the job ("Eto si KARDO, bata ko 'to, kahit ito na ang pumatay"). After the man referred to as "KARDO" left, ESPINO received a call, which prompted him to leave the meeting to attend to something important. After ESPINO left, witness saw CELESTE hand his father a bundle of money as his cut or share in jueteng. The father and son left and, when they arrived home, his father counted the money, which amounted to P100,000.00.

Witness claims to have seen "KARDO" on 14 December 2012, when he and his father again went to El Pescador to receive his father's share in jueteng. He also heard an exchange between "KARDO" and Congressman CELESTE, wherein the latter told "KARDO" to go to Mayor Martinez in Infanta to find out whether or not he's still alive ("mapan ka kini Mayor Martinez ejay Infanta, masapol ko maamuan no natay isuna o haan"),  and to which "KARDO" responded in the affirmative ("Wen, boss, data laang"). After "KARDO" left, CELESTE handed money to witness's father, saying that was his share  ("bagem datuy"). The following day, or on 15 December 2012, witness saw a TV news report on the death of Mayor Martinez and, in the morning of 16 December 2012, witness asked his father if said man is the  same Mayor that he, the Governor and the others plotted to kill. His father  answered the affirmative, but told him to keep silent.

Aside from the killing of Mayor Martinez, witness also related information connecting his father and his "bosses" to other crimes. One such crime is the death of a Barangay Kagawad in San Juan, Alcala, Pangasinan, JOVENCIA GASMIN. He said that the plan to kill Gasmin was brought up during a meeting in June 2012 in the farm of Engineer REYNALDO MENCIAS, father of Alcala Vice Mayor RYAN "PAO" MENCIAS. Said meeting was allegedly attended by Engr.  Mencias, Vice Mayor Mencias, Governor Espino and the witness's father and the witness himself. Witness said that he sat right behind his father and he heard Engr. Mencias say that he will have GASMIN killed because she is the one stopping the quarrying activities in Alcala, to which Governor Espino allegedly responded "Okey, good,  good, good," and thereafter asked "May killer ka ba diyan?" Engr. Mencias answered that he did, and Governor Espino replied "Eh iyon pala." Engr. Mencias summoned a mancalled "RICHARD", to whom Espino allegedly addressed the question, "Kaya mo ba?", and to which the latter answered "Opo, Gov." Witness saw and heard Engr.Mencias give instructions, along with a sketch, to "RICHARD" telling him to kill Gasmin that same night at her house or to do so at the Barangay Hall the followingmorning, but reminded him to remove the plate number of the motorcycle he will use. Witness saw the man replace the plate number of a red Honda motorcycle witha "For Registration" sign.

Witness said that he saw "RICHARD" again the following afternoon when his father took him to a restaurant in Urdaneta, Pangasinan, where they again met with the same group. "RICHARD" allegedly assured Engr. Mencias that he was successful because he was able to hit the target on the head, and handed a silver colored gun to Engr. Mencias. Witness also heard Governor ESPINO say that they should celebrate the death, and also tell witness' father that it should be published in the newspaper that it was MANUEL TOLENTINO who was behind the killing.

Witness described "KARDO" and "RICHARD" to NBI investigators, which resulted in a portrait parle for each, which was given to an NBI artist. He later picked out a picture of the person he identified as "KARDO" from among a set of photographs of eight (8) different male persons. The photograph he pointed out turned out to be that of RICARDO LEGARDA y SORIANO. He was asked if he recognized anyone else from the remaining photos, and he picked out only one other picture, whom he said was that of a bodyguard of Congressman CELESTE, who was identified AS that of RICHARD MANUEL y TAGBANSA.

He also shared information about the death of Bayambang, Pangasinan Councillor NATO SABANGAN. He saw Governor ESPINO ask two persons if they were able to kill Sabangan, which they affirmed. Witness also saw ESPINO give his father some money and tell him not to publish news about the death of Sabangan.

He also claims that his father was involved in the filing of bogus rape charges against Manuel Tolentino upon the behest of Engr. Mencias, and also about the false allegations that his father, as a child, was molested by Bishop OSCAR CRUZ, which witness claims was in retaliation for the Bishop's  jueteng exposé in 2005.

It appears that witness was physically abused by his father and thrown out of their house after the witness refused to continue distributing his father's newspaper. According to him, he consciously sought help from government authorities he knew were rivals of his father's bosses because he needed protection from his father, who had threatened to shoot him if he saw him again. He was brought by Manuel Tolentino to the care of Akap sa Bata ng mga Guro Kalinga Philippines, Inc., a non-governmental organization (NGO) devoted to children's rights and welfare. The Executive Director of Akap sa Bata got in touch with the NBI after relayed to them about his father's abuse and criminal activities.

Being a minor, witness executed his Sworn Statement in the presence and with the assistance of a Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Social Welfare Officer. The two gunmen in the Martinez murder case were apprehended and are currently detained at the Pangasinan Provincial Jail in Lingayen, facing murder charges before the  RTC-Burgos, Pangasinan.

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