“Trinato nilang parang hayop ang pagpatay sa kapatid ko. Hindi binigyan ng pagkakataon na ipaglaban man lang ang sarili.”
It’s been more than a year since Bienvenido Dosto Jr.’s brother was killed. And while their family have long mourned his passing away, the anguish from the way his brother was murdered was still there.
“Sabog ang ulo, bali ang braso, itong binti may tama.”
On August 16, 2009, Bienvenido’s brother, Timoteo Dosto, was ambushed.
It was afternoon of that day when the Buenavista Municipal police responded to a crime scene in Barangay Lilukin, Buenavista, Quezon. “Noong dumating po kami sa area, nakita po namin na may isang tao na nakahiga, duguan, at nakatumba po ang motor,” Police Officer (PO) 3 Nelson Baltazar tells ABS-CBN SOCO.
The victim was identified as Timoteo Dosto, 40 years old, a resident of the area.
Immediately, the authorities scouted the vicinity for possible suspects and found several evidences including the victim’s mobile phone and 26 bullet casings from an M16 rifle. Judging from the location of the area, the authorities believed that it was an ambush. “Wala pong bahay doon at madalang po ang tao,” PO3 Baltazar says. “Pwede pong sabihin na ambush area gawa po ng wala pong madadamay na civilian o madadamay na bahay.”
And based on the victim’s bullet-riddled body, the authorities thought that whoever killed him must have been livid with anger when he committed the crime.
But who would have the motive to kill Timoteo?
Timoteo was declared dead on arrival. Based on autopsy results, the victim sustained multiple gunshot wounds on his shoulders, and lower and upper extremities. The most fatal wound was the one he sustained on his head which exited through the back of his neck.
While the authorities had evidence on hand, they had zero leads as to who murdered Timoteo. Two weeks later, the investigation was transferred to the then-new chief of Buenavista Police, Senior Inspector Romuel Salvador. He conducted a background check on the victim.
“He was a former municipal secretary,” Salvador says. “Then suddenly, for unknown reasons, natanggal siya sa kanyang tungkulin bilang municipal secretary.” He then suspected that the murder of Timoteo must have had something to do with his former work.
Salvador also went back to the scene of the crime and, unexpectedly, came across a witness. According to that witness, Timoteo was not alone when he was ambushed. There was another victim—a one Quirino Leorin.
Quirino survived the ambush. “Sinabi niya na ‘yong nakaligtas sa ambush ay tinulungan niya, dinala niya sa ospital,” Salvador says. “Ito’y nagtago lang kasi ayaw niyang malaman kung nasaan siya.”
The authorities were able to track Quirino down. At first he didn’t want to say anything for fear of putting his life in more danger. But the authorities convinced him that the only way to achieve justice for his friend is for him to reveal what really happened that day.
Through a phone patch interview, Quirino told ABS-CBN SOCO what happened that noon of August 16, 2009.
“Papunta kami noon sa sabungan. Tapos nakita namin sina Eduardo Rivera, Efren Manalo, Valerio Evangelista, at Ricardo Cortez na may dalang baril. Ang akala ni Timoteo ay tatawid lang. Nag-slow down pa nga kami,” Quirino says. Little did they know that they were the target. “Bigla na lang nila kaming pinagbabaril. Nakatalon ako. Pero si Timoteo bumagsak na. Tinamaan din ako. Gumapang ako sa may sukalan.”
Quirino says he tried to get as far away from the suspects as possible. A few moments later, two men arrived in a motorcycle. Quirino thought he was finally getting help. But as it turns out, they too, were accomplices. He identified them as a one Benjamin Renieva and Alex Ricamara. When asked how he knew them, Quirino says he used to work with them.
And while the suspects were talking, Quirino grabbed the chance to escape until he was able to ask a resident for help.
Because of his testimony, the six suspects were charged with murder and frustrated murder. But further investigation shows that there was someone else behind the ambush, a mastermind. The authorities discovered that the victim, Timoteo, had once filed a blotter against a former government official—former Buenavista, Quezon mayor Ramon Reyes. Based on the blotter, Reyes has long been threatening to kill Timoteo.
Timoteo’s brother Bienvenido confirmed this. The victim used to be Reyes’s municipal secretary. But during the elections, the victim joined Reyes’s rival’s political party. “[‘Yon] ang nakikita ko na isa sa dahilan na ikinagalit nang lubos ni Reyes sa kanya,” Bienvenido says. “At ‘yon nga, pinagbabantaan niya na malapit ka na.”
But Bienvenido’s testimony and the victim’s blotter weren’t enough to implicate Reyes in the murder. Salvador investigated further.
And it turns out that the suspects were actually working for Reyes. “Yong dalawang suspek ay frequently doon umuuwi [sa bahay ni Reyes],” Salvador says. And through an informer, he discovered that Reyes had a stash of unlicensed firearms in his home. “Doon ako nagkaroon ng lakas ng loob na mag-apply ng search warrant.”
On September 4, 2009, the authorities searched Reyes’s home and discovered eleven unlicensed firearms including four .45 calibre pistols and one M16 bushmaster rifle. Ballistics examination showed that the said M16 rifle matched the bullet casings recovered from the crime scene.
Former Mayor Ramon Reyes was then charged with murder, frustrated murder, and illegal possession of firearms. The case against Reyes and the six other suspects was elevated to the Gumaca, Quezon Regional Trial Court. Claiming that the ballistics examination was inaccurate, Reyes filed a motion for reinvestigation.
Currently, the former mayor is detained at the Lucena Provincial Jail. ABS-CBN SOCO tried to interview him but he refused.
Meanwhile, currently detained at the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology in Gumaca Quezon are Eduardo Rivera, Efren Manalo, and Alex Ricamara. While the other suspects—Valerio Evangelista, Benjamin Renieva, and Ricardo Cortez—remain at large.
In an interview with ABS-CBN SOCO, the three detained suspects vehemently denied that they were involved in the ambush. A denial the victim’s brother refused to believe.
“Nandiyan na sila, nakakulong na sila, sabihin na nila ang totoo,” Bienvenido says. “Walang ibang may kakayanang gumawa ng krimen dito sa Buenavista kundi sila lang, ‘yang mga grupong iyan,” says Bienvenido.