“We will follow where the evidence leads us. Charge those who will hamper your investigation.”
This was the order given by Presidential Task Force on Media Security (PTFoMS) Executive Director Joel Sy Egco’s to Philippine National Police (PNP) and National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) agents who are investigating the murder of Dumaguete City radioman Rex Cornelio Pepino.
In a video conference recently, PNP Dumaguete City Police chief Lt. Col. Wilfredo Alarcon Jr. and NBI Agent-In-Charge Atty. Jose Ermie Monsato reported major breakthroughs in their investigation, including the identification of the alleged sedan used in tailing Pepino when he was killed last May 5 in the city, as well as the identification of some Persons of Interest (POI) in the case.
During the meeting that was also attended by Department of Justice (DOJ) Undersecretary Markk Perete and the PTFoMS Secretariat, investigators said they have very strong leads as to who could be behind the attack on Pepino. The involvement of some local government officials and personnel is not farfetched after probers were led to at least one vehicle registered to an office under the Negros Oriental provincial government.
“Do not be cowed by anyone.”
“Do what you have to do. I know the intense pressure you are experiencing there. Do not be cowed by anyone. All these findings will be reported to the President, the Executive Secretary, Secretary of Justice and Secretary (Martin) Andanar,” Sy Egco said.
“Those who will come in the way and obstruct will be dealt with accordingly,” the communications official added.
The virtual case conference was called by the Palace official 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),” the PTFoMS chief stressed.
On the recommendation of Undersecretary Perete, the Task Force will form “AO1 Task Force Pepino” to be led by a local National Prosecution Service official. The DOJ under Secretary Menardo Guevarra, sits as Chair of PTFoMS.
The DOJ official also gave instructions to secure the victim’s wife, Coleen, and to place her under the Witness Protection Program.
For his part, PTFoMS Co-Chair and Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Martin Andanar said: “We can assure 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 the surveillance and getaway vehicle in the incident.
Closed circuit television (CCTV) footages obtained by the task force also showed a gray Toyota Vios with conduction sticker 072806 parked near the radio station of DYMD Energy FM in Brgy. 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. Sy 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 also allegedly used by the suspects.
Investigators are likewise looking into the mysterious death of a person of interest that was linked to the murder. The person of interest was shot and killed by unidentified motorcycle-riding gunmen last May 12, 2020 just before policemen could serve a search warrant at his house.
Sy 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.
“We are on the verge of solving this case.”
“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,” he 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. Pepino was shot five times at point-blank range in front of his wife.
Sy Egco said the task force is on top of the situation and is closely coordinating with local law enforcers in the continuing investigation.