A CONVICTED murderer detained at the New Bilibid Prisons has been tagged as the mastermind in the recent killing of former Batangas Congressman Edgar Mendoza, his aide and his driver.
Another NBP detainee convicted for kidnapping-for-ransom acted as conduit in the commission of the crime, said Brig. Gen. Joel Coronel, director of the PNP Criminal Investigation and Detection Group.
In a press briefing at Camp Crame, Coronel said the mastermind, Sherwin Sanchez, asked his detainee-friend, Arthur Fajardo, who can be hired to carry out the killing of Mendoza, a lawyer of Sanchez.
Coronel said Sanchez owes Mendoza millions of pesos for legal services. Mendoza also serves as a lawyer for Fajardo and also owes him money.
“There was really no intention on the part of the suspects (Sanchez and Mendoza) to pay the amount agreed by them. So instead of paying the amount amounting to millions of pesos, they just contracted killers for the killing of Mendoza for the sum of P100,000,” said Coronel.
He said Fajardo contacted his wife, Jael, to orchestrate the killing of Mendoza.
Coronel said Mendoza’s driver, Nicanor Mendoza, and bodyguard Ruel Ruiz were “collateral damage” because they were with Mendoza when he was killed. Police previously reported Ruiz as the driver and Nicanor as the security aide.
Coronel said Mendoza was lured to go to the Calamba City residence of the Fajardo couple on Jan. 8 supposedly to receive payment. Coronel said Mendoza and his companions were welcomed and offered coffee laced with sleeping pills by househelpers Kristine Fernandez and Madonna Palermo.
Another suspect, Carlo Acuna, fetched two other suspects – Erickson Balbastro and Rodel Mercado from their hideouts. Coronel said Balbastro and Mercado were the ones who “committed the direct act of killing the victims.”
“Apparently, after the effects of the drugs (sleeping pills) worn off, they (victims) were stabbed and struck by hard objects in the head causing their deaths,” said Coronel. “Around afternoon of January 8, the victims were already dead.”
After the killing, Coronel said Balbastro drove Mendoza’s car from the Fajardo residence to San Juan, Batangas and then to Tiaong, Quezon where the car was burned with the victims inside the following day. He said Mercado, riding a motorcycle, tailed the car.
Coronel said Balbastro and Mercado were earlier detained at the Batangas provincial jail for unspecified criminal cases “and were released either on bail or the case was provisionally dismissed.”
Coronel said they were able to backtrack the movement of Mendoza during the investigation and determined that he went to the Fajardo residence in Villa Prinza, Calamba City.
“We confirmed with the security guard of that subdivision that the vehicle of Congressman Mendoza and even the ID of the driver Nicanor Mendoza was presented to the security guard and placed in the logbook,” said Coronel.
Coronel said the CIDG applied for search warrants against the suspects and “because of the pressure exerted” by the police, Jael surrendered.
Follow-up operations led to the arrest of Fernandez, Palermo, Acuna and Balbastro.
Mercado remains at large and is the subject of a manhunt operation.
Coronel said Fernandez provided information leading to the identity of the other suspects.
He said Balbastro admitted the victims were drugged before they were killed.
Police have filed three counts of murder against all the suspects before the Calamba City Prosecutors Office.
“By our own parameters on crime solution and crime clearance, this case is considered solved and is now elevated to the prosecution arm of the justice system,” PNP chief Gen. Archie Gamboa said.