SOCO: Crime spree

Posted at 04/09/2011 5:48 PM | Updated as of 04/11/2011 4:53 PM

June 27, 2003. Around 12:15 a.m., Remedios Piosang had just finished checking on her billiards pub in Rosal Extension, Barangay Payatas, Quezon City and was about to go to bed when a gunshot reverberated into the night.

Immediately, she rushed down to her billiards pub and saw 3 armed men robbing her customers. “Iyong isa hawak ‘yong baril na ganyan kahaba, itinututok doon sa mga tao,” she recalls. “Naita ko po na ginaganyan isa-isa, ‘Pera! Pera!’”

Fortunately, no one was hurt and the robbers fled the scene right away. The incident was reported immediately to the Quezon City Police Sation 6.

Re-enactment. Remedios Piosang saw three armed men robbing
her customers inside her billiards pub in
Barangay Payatas, Quezon City.

Then a little over an hour later, around 1:30 a.m., the team of Police Officer (PO) 3 Eden Pascua responded to a shooting incident in nearby Rosal Street. The complainant was one Leonardo Apelado.

 “Habang papauwi na raw siya galing sa pagtatapon ng basura ay nasalubong niya itong 3 suspek,” PO3 Pascua says. “Binaril siya nang walang sabi-sabi.” Fortunately, Leonardo was unharmed.
   
The suspects have already fled when the authorities arrived but PO3 Pascua’s team was able to gather some evidence—an empty bullet casing.

Re-enactment. Leonardo Apelado was on his way home when
he saw 3 armed men. One of them shot at him.

Then around 2:35 a.m., another crime took place—this time, a tricycle and his passenger were mugged. Abner (not his real name) told ABS-CBN SOCO what happened.

 “Binabaybay naming ‘yong Sampaguita sa may gilid ng DSWD,” he says. “Tapos biglang humarang ‘yong tatlo, nakatutok sa ’min ‘yong mga baril.” The robbers then took all of Abner’s earning for the day.  But Abner’s passenger resisted. And then one of the robber’s fired his gun and his passenger was shot at the foot.

The incident was immediately reported to the QC Police Station 6 and the injured victim was brought to the hospital.

Re-enactment. A tricycle driver and his passenger were mugged
by three armed men.

But not more than 10 minutes later, around 2:45 a.m., PO3 Pascua’s team had to respond to another shooting incident in IBP Road corner Kaunlaran Street, Barangay Commonwealth, Quezon City.

“Pagdating namin doon, may mga nakita kaming dugo sa crime scene,” he says. His team proceeded to the hospital to check the condition of the victim and was surprised to see that it was a fellow policeman—a one PO3 Wendelfo Lagunzad. He was dead on arrival.

Based on autopsy results, PO3 Lagunzad died due to a gunshot wound he sustained on his chest. During their investigation, PO3 Pascua and his team discovered that PO3 Lagunzad was off duty during the time the shooting happened.

“Nag-aantay sila ng masasakyang tricycle, nang may na-notice itong si PO3 Lagunzad na isang kahina-hinalang ikinikilos ng 3 kalalakihan na nasa may madilim na portion ng IBP Road,” PO3 Pascua says. “So instinctively, syempre pulis siya, in-accost niya for police confrontation kung ano ang ginagawa nila doon.”

That’s when the perpetrators ran. According to PO3 Pascua, the victim chased the 3 suspects and an exchange of gunfire ensued. And when he approached a dimly lit part of the street, unaware that the 3 suspects were waiting for him, he was shot.

Re-enactment. PO3 Wendelfo Lagunzad chased the 3 suspects.
An exchange of gunfire ensued and he was killed in the process.

Four separate crime incidents, 4 different locations, all within the short span of 3 hours. How the perpetrators masterminded this kind of crime spree baffled the authorities. But the next day, they would receive a very crucial information that would create a breakthrough in their investigation.

Common factor

According to PO3 Pascua, all 4 crime incidents had a common factor--all victims pointed to 3 unidentified armed men as the perpetrators.  Moreover, the descriptions of the suspects were consistent. “Particular ‘yong isa sa 3 suspect na mahaba at saka blondie ‘yong buhok,” PO3 Pascua says.

But despite these information, the authorities still had no clue to their identities.

Until PO3 Pascua received a tip from an anonymous caller on the usual whereabouts of the suspects. He coordinated with the barangay officers of Barangay Commonwealth and discovered that there was a group notorious for such crimes—a group of teenagers called the “Magic 5” or “M5”.

“Style nila, pagkatira tatakbo and then mag-aabang na naman,” he says. “Kung sinong madaanan, kawawa ka. ‘Pag na-trip-an ka ng mga ito babarilin ka na lang.”

Through the joint effort of QC Police and the officers of Barangay Commonwealth, an operation was organized to apprehend the three suspects. The team brought with them the the surviving victims to help I.D. the suspects.

The arrest

The authorities proceeded to the whereabout of the suspects and when the victims positively identified them, they immediately arrested the 3. The suspects were identified as Benny Pajoway, Begie Mallari, and Joel “Ornok” Clarito who was said to be the leader of the Magic 5 gang. All of them appeared to be just 18 years old.

The 3 were charged with robbery and attempted murder for the shooting for Leonardo Apelado; robbery with frustrated homicide for mugging and shooting the tricycle driver and his passenger; and murder for killing PO3 Wendelfo Lagunzad.

Begie Mallari was also charged with illegal possession of firearms.

But since some of the victims failed to show up during the hearing, the cases were forfeited. Only the murder case against them progressed. And on December 8, 2010, 7 years after PO3 Lagunzad was killed, Benny Pajoway, Begie Mallari, and Joel Clarito were found guilty beyond reasonable doubt and were sentenced to reclusion perpetua or lifetime imprisonment.

ABS-CBN SOCO was there to document the promulgation and tried to interview the accused. But only Joel Clarito obliged.

He denied all the allegations.

He also said that they were, in fact, the real victims in this case because they were tortured by the authorities. “Pinahirapan, pinilit paaminin,” Joel says. “Tinanggalan ako ng isang kuko, pinaso ‘yong kamay ko, buong katawan ko, gulpi. May palo pa ho ako sa ulo. Ang inaano ko lang, wala naman kaming kinalaman sa nangyari.”

PO3 Pascua vehemently denied this.

In denial. Gus Abelgas interviewing one of the accused, Joel Clarito.
Clarito denies having committed the crimes charged against him.

 

Guilty beyond reasonably doubt. Three members of the notorious
Magic 5 gang.

Meanwhile, even though the cased filed by Remedios and Abner did not progress, they were contented with the fact that the men who mugged them were sentenced to prison for murder charges.

“Satisfied dahil sa wala naman sa ‘min namatay at napatawad ko sila,” Remedios says. “At noong time na nandoon sila na nakahilera, naghihingi ng tawad ‘Nanay wala naman at doon ko sila naitanong kung bakit nila ginawa ‘yon, ang sagot nila ay ‘Nay mga bangag kami eh’, doon ko sila ulit nakausap. Di na bale na pag kayo ulit napalaya magbago na kayo.”
“Siyempre at least mababawasan ‘yong krimen sa lugar na iyon,” says Abner. “Kumbaga balewala na rin sa ‘kin ‘yon eh. Ang inaano ko talaga ‘yong pasahero ‘tsaka ‘yong pulis kawawa naman. Eh namatay nga ‘yong pulis, di ba?”

Meanwhile, PO3 Pascua has a message to all the hooligans who continue to commit heartless crimes. “May hangganan din ‘yong mga hindi magagandang ginagawa nila sa kapwa nila,” he says. “So sana magsilbing aral sa kanila ito na ang batas ay hindi titigil hangga’t hindi sila nauusig nang tuluyan.” April 8, 2011