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One group eyed in missing ‘sabungeros’

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Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla on Friday said government investigators see one group could be behind the disappearance of 34 cockfight enthusiasts or “sabungeros” last year.

‘SABUNGERO’ GAB. Justice Secretary Crispin Remulla meets the families of the missing cockfight enthusiasts or ‘sabungeros’ on Friday. During the meeting, Remulla said they have agreed to meet regularly to always inform the families on the investigation of and search for their loved ones. Danny Pata

Remulla stopped short of saying a criminal syndicate was behind the missing cockfight enthusiasts and declined to speculate who might be the mastermind.

“That’s not my province. That’s not within the bounds of my job. We do not speculate in my job. We only find out based on evidence,” he said.

The Philippine National Police admitted that there is still no credible lead on the whereabouts of the sabungeros.

PNP spokesperson Police Colonel Jean Fajardo also said they are looking into the possibility that one group is behind the disappearances.

Remulla earlier met with the police, the National Bureau of Investigation, and the families of 16 families of the missing cockfight enthusiasts.

The Justice chief said they agreed to hold regular dialogues regarding the cases.

“We’re talking about eight… clustered cases. And I think four of them have been filed, some of them still have to be filed. There are leads in other cases that are still being followed up,” he said.

One of the cases involved 15 sabungeros who all disappeared in one day.

He said the eight clustered cases included the complaint filed on Thursday by the family of Michael Bautista, the sabungero who was seen in a video handcuffed at a cockfighting arena in Laguna accompanied by two alleged policemen.

Meanwhile, retired Master Sergeant Mario Velasco, the father of a missing sabungero, asked the Department of Justice (DOJ) to release the resolution on the case as soon as possible.

“We asked him (Remulla), as a Christmas gift, to release the resolution so that the issue will become clear and we will obtain justice,” Velasco said.

In response, Remulla said: “I cannot promise anything that I cannot control. But I can urge them to resolve it in the soonest possible time.”

The PNP on Friday announced that its investigators have filed anothercase of kidnapping and serious illegal detention against two more suspects tagged in the case of a missing sabungero in Laguna.

Named as respondents in the complaint was Julie Patidongan also known as “Dondon,” reportedly a staff of a farm in Barangay Palasan, Sta. Cruz, Laguna and a “John Doe.”

The Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) filed the charges on Thursday before the National Prosecution Service of the Department of Justice.

The charges were based on the complaint of the kin of victim Michael Bautista of Barangay Poblacion 1, Daang Barrio Road, San Jose del Monte, Bulacan, who has been missing since April 28, 2021.

“Patidongan and a John Doe were tagged as the persons seen on a video footage obtained by CIDG as the same persons who were holding the handcuffed Bautista outside the farm,” PNP officer in charge Lt. Gen. Rhodel Sermonia, said in a statement.

In a meeting with CIDG chief Brig. Gen. Ronald Lee, Bautista was positively identified by his wife and brother as the handcuffed man in a “secret video” obtained by investigators, saying they recognized him from his haircut, body build, and personal belongings.

Bautista is among 34 missing “sabungeros” who are the subject of a massive search and investigation that earlier led to the filing of kidnapping charges against eight persons on March 18.

Based on this video evidence, police digital forensics technicians developed computerized facial composites of the two suspects, Sermonia said.

“With these developments, we are confident that the investigation onthe missing sabungeros is gaining solid ground and will find closure in due time,” he said.

Patidongan and the unnamed suspect were seen on a cell phone video accompanying the handcuffed Bautista outside a cockfighting arena in Laguna on the night of April 28, 2021, just before he went missing.

A witness and Michael’s brother both identified Patidongan to be the manager of the AA-Cobra Farm in Brgy. Palasan in Santa Cruz, Laguna, the same area where the cockfighting arena is located.

The PNP has released composite sketches of the two suspects.

CIDG chief Police Brigadier General Oliver Lee said the two men could be involved in the disappearance of more than 30 cockfighting bettors.


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