A self-confessed gunman and three other suspects in the killing of Nueva Ecija priest Fr. Richmond Nilo are now in police custody, the Philippine National Police (PNP) said Monday.
Police Regional Office 3 director Chief Superintendent Amador Corpus identified the gunman as Omar Mallari, who was arrested in Arayat, Pampanga on June 22.
The other suspects were identified as Manuel Torres, Marius Albis and Ronaldo Garcia.
Albis and Garcia surrendered to the police, said Corpus.
Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) chief Director Roel Obusan said they were able to arrest Mallari after they tracked down the vehicle used by the suspects, which is a Nissan Sentra with plate number THB 437.
Obusan, citing records from the Land Transportation Office, said the registered owner of the vehicle is a certain Shiela Devlin but was later sold by the husband of Shiela's sister to one Edgardo Ramos.
It was later found out that the vehicle was sold to a certain Rogelio Niala, who admitted that he bought the vehicle from Mallari.
Mallari supposedly burned down and dismantled the vehicle into pieces after they carried out the killing. An engine block of the vehicle was later found in a junk shop.
"Pagkasunong nung sasakyan, na-recover natin 'yung block kasi binenta ito sa junk shop," Obusan said in a press briefing in Camp Crame, Quezon City.
Police were able to immediately arrest Mallari as he has a standing warrant of arrest for robbery with frustrated homicide. Mallari, in his extrajudicial confession, admitted that he had shot the priest while also revealing the names of his cohorts. He also confessed that he bought the vehicle last April 24.
Garcia, meanwhile, in his judicial affidavit, said that Torres asked him to find a hit man. Garcia then allegedly contacted Mallari, who was allegedly the one who shot Nilo.
Based on the affidavit of Mallari and Garcia, they were paid around P100,000 with Torres as the "financier" or mastermind.
Asked on what could be the motive of the suspects, Garcia said Torres has a grudge against Nilo for supposedly reviving a molestation case involving his nephew, Christopher Torres.
"Nagpahanap siya (Torres) kay Ronaldo ng tirador, so bakit naman nabanggit...Sinabi ni Ronaldo na galit nga si Manuel Torres doon sa pari dahil hindi nga nakapag-pari 'yung pamangkin niyang seminarista kasi nga siya ang nagfollow-up doon sa filing ng molestation case against yung seminarista na pamangkin niya," Corpus said.
The molestation case against Christopher was supposedly dismissed in March 2017 but Nilo "revived" it "lately." Christopher, a former seminarian, allegedly molested three minor altar servers.
"Tatlong sakristan ang victim dito, 'yung tatlong sakristan na allegedly minolestiya ni Christopher Torres na seminarista din," PNP chief Director General Oscar Albayalde said.
Nilo was shot dead by motorcyle-riding suspects while he was about to officiate a 6 p.m. Mass in a chapel in Barangay Mayamot in Zaragoza, Nueva Ecija, on June 10.
He was the third priest to be killed since December last year.
The Special Investigation Task Group Nilo which was activated on June 11 earlier said it is considering three possible motives behind the killing of Fr. Nilo which include his involvement in land dispute, his hand in filing of rape case against Christopher, and his stance against a certain religious sector. —KBK, GMA News