By: Glazyl Y. Masculino
BACOLOD City – The Negros Occidental Police Provincial Office (Nocppo) presented on Thursday afternoon three persons of interest tagged in the killing of a former village councilman at Barangay Kumaliskis, Don Salvador Benedicto town.
Police Colonel Romeo Baleros, Nocppo director, said they were arrested by the San Carlos City Police in a checkpoint at the national highway of Sitio Medina, Barangay Rizal an hour after the killing.
One of the three alleged suspects was identified as Armando Larida, 42, of Barangay Bagong-Silang, Don Salvador Benedicto. He allegedly yielded a .45-caliber pistol with five standard magazines, 30 rounds of live ammunition, a sling bag, and a holster.
Larida was driving a motorcycle, along with his nephew and another companion, when they were arrested by police around 9:15 a.m.
Baleros said they cannot yet conclude if the three are responsible for the death of Fernando Toreno who was gunned down by five unidentified armed men at Barangay Kumaliskis 8 a.m. Thursday.
Toreno was riding a motorcycle when he was waylaid by the assailants who were on board a red sports utility vehicle. He suffered gunshot wounds on the head and was declared dead in a hospital.
Baleros said the assailants fled towards San Carlos City, thus a dragnet operation followed, which resulted in their arrest.
Baleros said the three persons of interest will be subjected to paraffin tests to find out if they have direct involvement in Toreno’s murder. The recovered firearm will also be subjected to ballistic examination, he added.
“We will give them due process, as we conduct in-depth investigation to determine if they are the same perpetrators who killed Toreno,” the provincial director said.
Baleros said Larida will be charged for illegal possession of firearm and ammunition, and will be detained at San Carlos City Police Station while his two companions will be placed in the custody of Don Salvador Municipal Police Station for further investigation.
Meanwhile, Police Captain Jerald Muya, chief of Don Salvador Municipal Police Station, said they have a witness who identified the three arrested persons as among Toreno’s assailants based on the clothes they were wearing.
Muya, however, said they will still have to investigate further and gather more evidence to confirm their identities.
Muya said they are eyeing grudge as possible motive behind Toreno’s murder, but they cannot give details in the meantime.
Also, Muya said that they are tracing the persons who rented the SUV which was used in the crime.
When sought for reaction, Larida and his two companions denied their involvement in Toreno’s murder case, saying they were supposed to go to work for a roofing installation at the said town when they were arrested.
Larida, however, refused to comment about the firearm recovered from his possession.