PHILIPPINE National Police (PNP) chief, General Guillermo Lorenzo T. Eleazar on Tuesday announced the surrender of a dismissed police official ordered hunted by President Rodrigo Duterte for his alleged involvement in gun-for-hire activities in Ilocos-Pangasinan region particularly in La Union province.
The top cop said that ex-Lieutenant Colonel Wilson Magpali,tagged as the leader of the Magpali Group reportedly engaged in gun-for-hire and other criminal activities in Region 1, yielded to the PNP Intelligence Group to clear his name.
According to the PNP chief, the accused surfaced after feeling the pressure of a massive manhunt launched by the police to get him and his alleged members.
Accompanied by his private counsel, Magpali voluntarily appeared before the office of the PNP-IG on Monday and executed an affidavit attesting that he voluntarily submitted himself to the PNP “to clear my name, seek redress and protection from possible harm against me.”
“Fearing for my life and to clear my name, honor and integrity and to clear myself from the investigation being conducted against my person, I voluntarily went to the Intelligence Group in Camp Crame, Quezon City to clear my name of the allegations of my alleged involvement,” Magpali said in his affidavit.
The former police official also said that “I am not the leader of the Magpali Gun for Hire Group and has no knowledge on the accusation of planned killing of politicians in La Union.”
He further expressed willingness to cooperate with authorities and requested PNP-IG for temporary custody to undergo investigation.
Citing a report from PNP-IG director, Colonel Neil B. Alinsañgan, the PNP chief said that Magpali left his rented apartment unit in Barangay, Legazpi, Tayug, Pangasinan in 2019 after he was implicated in the killing of a certain Freddie Ramirez.
Gen. Eleazar instructed the PNP-IG to coordinate closely with the PNP Criminal Investigation and Detection Group n conducting operational research and case-build-up efforts against Magpali and his group who were allegedly involved in several cases of assassination in the Ilocos-Pangasinan region.
“We respect his rights as a private individual. Until there is an order from the Court to arrest him, he remains a free man,” Gen. Eleazar said.
“We acknowledge his manifestation of good faith in submitting himself to us, but, the moment we establish a case against him, he will have face his charges squarely, he added.
La Union (2nd District) Representative Sandra Eriguel earlier accused Magpali of targeting her for assassination. Eriguel is the widow of the late congressman Franny Eriguel who was reportedly killed by members of the same group.
Duterte earlier told the PNP Ilocos region to “get the head” of the Magpali gang which was reportedly hired by some politicians to harass or liquidate political rivals ahead of the 2022 elections.
The order was in response to the appeal of Eriguel who disclosed an alleged assassination plot against her and two mayors in the province.
She said catching the leader of the group “would lead authorities into the bottom of stemming the political killings in La Union way back in 2018”.
La Union police earlier uncovered the plot to kill a member of the House of Representatives and two mayors, following the arrest of several members of the alleged assassination squad, composed mostly of police and military scalawags, on June 23, 2021.
Eriguel said the discovery of the plot frightened the people of La Union who fear that the 2018 violent killings may happen again.
Eriguel is the widow of former Rep. Franny Eriguel who was slain in 2018. The two other targets are also allied with the Eriguels, according to the intelligence report.
Following President Duterte’s order, the Department of Interior and Local Government instructed the PNP to go after the gun-for-hire group.
In a radio interview, DILG Undersecretary for external and legislative affairs Ricojudge Janvier M. Echiverri confirmed that the president issued the order to get the mastermind of the group which is allegedly composed of rogue policemen and soldiers.
Echiverri said the instruction was to go after the group in all areas where its members may have gone hiding.
Eriguel said she will soon file a resolution in Congress to call for an inquiry, in aid of legislation, into the existence of the gun-for-hire group.
Several members of the alleged gun-for-hire group were arrested on June 23, 2021 through a hot pursuit operation, following the killing of a farm caretaker in Barangay Ballogo, Bacnotan, La Union on June 22, 2021.
The killing of the farm caretaker was believed to be a side contract in preparation for high-profile targets.