Better late than never: Palace order on case of missing ‘sabungeros’

March 12, 2022 Alfred P. Dalizon 244 views

Alfred DalizonWHY only now? Why issue a March 8 order directing the PNP and the NBI to conduct a thorough investigation into the disappearance of 31 ‘sabungeros’ when the truth of the matter is that a PNP Special Investigation Task Group has already been fully working on the case since the year started? These are some of the comments that cropped up after the Palace issued the order this week.

However, as they always say, ‘it’s better late than never.’ It may really be a delayed action but in reality, it is better that not saying anything about it. I am referring to the March 8 memorandum issued by Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea to DILG Secretary Ed Año, DOJ Sec. Menardo Guevarra and Pagcor chairperson Andrea Domingo to fully work on the solution of the case of the cockfighting enthusiasts who mysteriously vanished.

Medialdea even directed the PNP and the NBI to “submit its findings to the Office of the President and the Department of Justice within 30 days from the issuance of this order.” At the same time, the Palace official directed Pagcor to conduct an investigation for any violations of its e-sabong licensees under their existing terms of agreement.

He also ordered Pagcor to ensure compliance with the security and surveillance requirements under its regulatory framework for e-sabong off-cockpit betting stations, particularly the installation of CCTV systems in e-sabong gaming sites among others. However, the Palace said that for the meantime, e-sabong licensees may continue their operations pending the result of the investigations to the chagrin of senators led by former PNP chief, Sen. Ronald ‘Bato’ dela Rosa.

Prior to the Palace memorandum, there have been so many articles about the ongoing PNP investigation ordered by General Dionards Carlos into the abduction of 31 ‘sabungeros’ between April 2021 and January this year. The probe actually started months before former PNP-CIDG director, Major Gen. Bert Ferro retired last March 5. It also triggered a Senate investigation that started weeks ago with millionaire businessman and former gaming consultant Charlie ‘Atong’ Ang even naming a number of lawmakers and government officials, active or not as behind a ‘conspiracy’ to topple him. The Palace however did not call for a probe on Ang’s expose.

Prior to the Palace directive, probers from the PNP-SITG have interviewed a number of people including security guards at the Manila Arena believed to have had a hand in the disappearance of six ‘sabungeros’ in their area. The SITG also has a witness against the suspects who denied the charges against them.

Sec. Guevarra also claimed that the NBI now has a lead on the case without giving any details. I hope and pray that the PNP and the NBI are zeroing in on the same personalities or we will have different sets of suspects and masterminds being presented just like in the case of the infamous Vizconde Massacre in June 1991.

During the investigation of the case, there were initially six alleged ‘Akyat-Bahay Gang’ members who were arrested for alleged involvement in the crime. The suspects who claimed they were tortured to confess to the crime were acquitted by a court in September 1993 for insufficient evidence.

Four years after the crime, a confessed former drug addict surfaced to shed light on the massacre and identified the children of wealthy and prominent families as the men who killed the three victims and even raped one of them. One policeman was also found guilty as an accessory for burning bedsheets and tampering with other pieces of evidence in the crime and serve an 11-year prison term.

In order to prevent cases of bungled investigations, the PNP and the NBI must share the right information they have gathered so far so that they can come up with a credible investigation and accurate pieces of evidence and witnesses that would lead to the successful prosecution of the suspects and not lead to another “Released for Further Investigation’ resolution from the prosecutor’s office. As always, an RFI resolution means a losing case and another embarrassment to our law enforcement agencies.

By the way, the NBI should also join the PNP in investigating the lack of CCTV recordings in the areas where the ‘sabungeros’ disappeared. This is highly-mysterious since modern ‘sabungans’ have state-of-the-art CCTV systems, those that can even be viewed online by its owners to prevent cheating and other irregularities in the gentleman’s game.

I also hope that the NBI will join the PNP in coming up with a reward system for informants on missing persons just like the 31 ‘sabungeros.’ An honest-to-goodness and well-funded reward system and witness protection program will make it easy for the two agencies to find witnesses and not come out empty-handed in their effort to look for testimonies vital to the solution of a particular case.

However, I expect some major developments in the case this month. Just read these words from Sec. Guevarra: “I am confident that the NBI and the PNP will soon come up with positive results. It is improbable that 34 persons in strikingly similar situations would disappear without a trace.”

And this is a statement from the PNP: “As we have stated during the Senate inquiry on the missing cockfight gamers, rest assured that the PNP is on top of the investigation. The probe of the cases has been ongoing and important pieces of evidence continue to be gathered. Pursuant to the President’s directive, the PNP reiterates its commitment to meet the 30-day period for the submission of the case findings,” said PNP Public Information Office chief, Brigadier General Roderick Alba.


Former PNP chief-turned Senator Ping Lacson on Friday scored the propaganda by some groups that claimed activists were arrested in Cavite after he warned of the possible infiltration by the Communist Party of the Philippines and its legal fronts in the campaign of Vice President Leni Robredo.

Lacson said a fact-check showed the arrests were related to an operation of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency against illegal drugs in the province. “May naaresto pero drug operation ito sa Bacoor. Ang nag-operate, PDEA, anti-illegal drugs operation,” he said. Last Friday, PDEA and Cavite police operatives smashed a drug den in Barangay Talaba 7 in Bacoor City where they arrested 12 suspects and seized around 25 grams of shabu worth P241,500 and various drug paraphernalia, said Calabarzon police director, Brig. Gen. Tony Yarra.

The Partido Reporma standard bearer noted the groups that issued “alerts” tried to make it appear that they were arrested because he had “red-tagged” them for attending Robredo’s campaign rally in Cavite earlier this month. “Ganyan ang kanilang ginagawang propaganda. Kaya huwag maligaw ang ma-attend na volunteer,” Sen. Lacson said.

Lacson reiterated he has never engaged in red-tagging, and that he merely warned those concerned about entering into a possible coalition government with the CPP, New People’s Army and National Democratic Front – with the NPA insurgency having been behind the loss of more than 2,000 deaths, and billions of pesos in revolutionary taxes and the destruction of properties of those who refused to “cooperate” with them.

Also, he maintained he has his own intelligence sources who validated the information that members of CPP legal fronts were at Robredo’s rally. He added it is natural for the CPP and its legal fronts to discredit ex-New People’s Army cadre Jeffrey “Ka Eric” Celiz.

“Ang armed struggle hindi ma-justify no matter how you look at it,” he stressed.