On its fifth year anniversary, ABS-CBN SOCO explores thirty-three explosive cases that shook Metro Manila and nearby provinces and how they were solved through thorough forensic investigation with a lone .45 caliber pistol as their most crucial evidence.
It was almost 1 a.m. on January 10, 2006 when members of the San Pablo police and operatives from the National Bureau of Investigation responded to a crime scene at the Mariflor Subdivision in San Pablo City, Laguna.
Recovered at the crime scene were bullet casings from various guns—a 9mm pistol, a .45 caliber pistol and a .38 caliber pistol.
The victims were identified as Jimson Vergara (21 yrs. old), Arnold Munecia (33 yrs. old), John Andrew Belen (22 yrs. old), and Blas Melvin Dequina (15 yrs. old). Surviving the bloodblath were Joey Belen (21 yrs. old) and Aldwin Villaruel (20 yrs. old).
According to one of the survivors, Belen, he and his friends just came from a concert and were hanging out in Mariflor Subdivision when a vehicle passed by them.
“Later on, may 5 tao na biglang lumapit sa kanila, may mga baril na hawak at tinutukan sila,” NBI Laguna Chief Olivo Ramos tells ABS-CBN SOCO. “Pinagkukuha ang mga personal belongings nila.”
One of the witnesses remembered one of the suspect’s face and, through a composite sketch, the authorities were able to identify him as one Rexzon Hizon, a resident of Miraflor Subdivision.
“Tiningnan natin ‘yong profile ng tao na ito sa Friendster,” Ramos says. “Na-identify [ng surviving victim] from that picture ‘yong bumaril sa kanya.”
Hizon was immediately arrested. But when his case was about to be tried in court, Hizon fled the country, while 4 other suspects are yet to be identified.
The second shooting
The shooting in San Pablo City hasn’t even been resolved yet when another incident took place in San Juan, Quezon City.
On July 10, 2006, six members of the Mix Drivers Brotherhood Association were killed in a KTV Bar in San Juan. The vicims were identified as Christopher Caedo, Felix Alday, Vladimer Baona, Mario Pastorpili, Ronald Malacad, and Crispin Tambolian. Two members of the group survived the shooting and were identified as Bryan Fermina and Renato Vargas.
Bullet casings from a .45 caliber pistol were recovered at the crime scene.
The crime scene. Six members of the Mix Drivers Brotherhood Association were shot at a KTV Bar in San Juan.
Through the 2 surviving victims’ testimonies, the authorities were able to identify one of the suspects—a one Henry Fong Y Ching also known by his aliases “Jin”, “Jen-Jen”, and “Henry Cuales Y Andrade”. According to Superintendent Rodel Jocson, former chief of police of the San Juan police, Fong is a member of a notorious robbery hold-up gang known as the “Sako Gang” which later became the “Estribo Gang” and was one of San Juan’s most wanted criminal.
Even though he was at large, Fong was charged with 6 counts of murder and 2 counts of frustrated murder at the Provincial Prosecutor’s Office in Rizal.
Most wanted. Henry Fong Y Ching alyas “Jin” is a member of a notorious robbery hold-up gang called “Sako Gang” or “Estribo Gang”.
The third shooting
During the wee hours of June 6, 2007, almost a year after the shooting in San Juan, took place, the residents of Barangay Gordon Heights in Olongapo City were awakened by the sound of gunfire. It came from one of the houses in the neighborhood.
“Dineclare na hold-up, kinuha ‘yong mga cellphone,” Supt. Angelito Pacia, former director of the Olongapo City police tells ABS-CBN SOCO. “Then yong ibang nakatakbo, pinagbabaril noong mga suspek.”
Two victims died on the spot and were identified as Marvin Moreno and Robin Give. Three other victims were injured.
Recovered at the crime scene were eight empty shells of a .45 caliber pistol.
Based on initial investigation, there were at least 3 to 4 suspects behind the
shooting. However, since the authorities didn’t have any lead, the case came to a stand still.
But little did they expect that another crime would take place months later and would pave way to solving not only the shooting incident in Barangay Gordon Heights but the cases prior to that as well.
On April 5, 2008, the San Fernando police responded to a robbery incident in Villa Corazon in San Fernando, Pampanga. Two suspects were apprehended as they were trying to escape the scene of the crime. The suspects were identified as Ferdinand Cadenas (21 yrs. old) and John Ariel Santos (21 yrs. old) also known by his aliases “Jay-Ar Mojica Y Perez” and “John Robert Mojica”.
The other suspects escaped but Cadenas and Santos identified them as Benny Crisologo, Anthony Benipayo, and Henry Fong—the same Henry Fong that was pinned down for the July 10, 2006 shooting incident in San Pablo, Laguna.
Apprehended. Suspects (L) Ferdinand Cadenas and (R) John Ariel Santos were arrested as they were trying to escape the scene of the crime.
Based on initial investigation, Fong and his group robbed 2 houses in Villa Corazon and raped 2 victims. “Yong isa dinala sa taas at doon ni-rape,” Police Officer 1 Rachelle Castro of the San Fernando police says. “Yong isa sa CR pa ginawa.”
Based on police records, Fong and his boys were members of a notorious gang called the “Galindez Gang”. They were charged with robbery with violence and intimidation against person and rape.
Recovered at the crime scene where two 9mm revolvers and one .45 caliber pistol. The guns were submitted to the Philippine National Police’s Firearms Identifications Division (FAID) in Camp Crame for ballistic examination. That’s when the authorities discovered that the .45 caliber Charles Daly pistol recovered from the crime scene in Villa Corazon was the same gun that was used to fire the bullet casings found in Barangay Godon Heights in Olongapo City on June 2007.
Almost 9 months after the connection between the shooting incident in Olongapo City and the robbery case in San Fernado, Pampanga were established, Benny Crisologo, one of the gang’s alleged leaders was arrested.
Suspect arrested. Benny Crisologo, one of the alleged leaders of the notorious “Galindez Gang” was apprehended nine months after the last shooting incident.
And as the investigation continued, ballistic reports from the FAID showed that the .45 caliber Charles Daly pistol recovered from the San Fernando crime scene also matched the bullet casings that were found in San Pablo City on January of 2006 and the bullets that killed the 6 members of the Mix Drivers Brotherhood Association in San Juan on July of 2006.
“Itong test at saka ‘yong ebidensiyang basyo na nakuha sa crime scene ng imbestigador ay nanggaling sa iisang baril,“ says Supt. Reynaldo De Guzman. “The matching gave fruitful evidence, I think, 5 to 6 cases that were attributed dito sa dalawang nahuli sa San Fernando,” Senior Superintendent Angelito Pacia, former director of the Olongapo City police says.
Perfect match. Ballistic reports show that the .45 caliber Charles Daly pistol recovered from the San Fernando crime scene matched the bullet casings found in San Pablo City on January of 2006, in San Juan on July 2006, and in Olongapo City on June 2007.
Based on the FAID’s data, there were a total of 10 firearms that were consistently used in several of the cases they were investigating leading them to conclude that there was only one gang behind all of these crimes.
“Nagsimula kami sa 1,500 cases, but we were able to trim down to 33 cases,” Supt. De Guzman says. “Paulit-ulit lang ‘yong sampung baril na ginagamit.”
The link. Further investigation showed that there were a total of ten firearms that were consistently used in various shooting incidents. One of them a .45 caliber pistol.
And while the group went by under different names, their modus operandis were consistent. “Halos lahat ng naitalang krimen, pagnanakaw ang motibo,” Supt. De Guzman says. “Karamihan ng mga oras ng pag-atake ng mga ito between 10:00pm to 2:00am.”
Suspects at large
Two of the suspects—Ferdinand Cadenas and John Ariel Santos—are currently detained at the New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa while the other suspects remain at large.
The authorities vowed to do everything they can to apprehend these suspects and, at the same time, are asking anyone who knows the whereabouts of the suspects or has seen them to immediately report their location.
“Makakaasa kayo na mangunguna ang kapulisan sa pagtugon at pagpapanatili ng kapayapaan sa bansa,” Supt. De Guzman says. “Kailangan namin ang tulong ng bawat mamamayan para pasugpo ang mga masasamang elemento sa ating bayan.” )