Cops eyeing 3 motives behind Mayor murder

Cops eyeing 3 motives behind Mayor murder
By Mar S. Arguelles, Niña Calleja
Inquirer Southern Luzon, Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines—His widow suspects that his planned exposé on public works anomalies was behind the murder of her husband.

But police Monday said they were looking into three possible motives for the killing of “jueteng” whistle-blower Wilfredo “Boy” Mayor.

Wiping away tears, Cherry Mayor said that her husband had expressed concern to his friends about some people in Bicol cornering huge infrastructure projects.

“I have learned that my husband had been advocating a transparent implementation of infrastructure projects,” she told the Inquirer in an interview in the Mayors’ house in Daraga town in Albay province.

“He even had differences with officials from the Department of Public Works and Highways and big private contractors allegedly getting big projects from the DPWH.”

Cherry did not mention the names of the DPWH officials and the private contractors.

She said she could not categorically point to the brains behind the killing “but these were the issues that confronted my husband, and I leave this case to the authorities and (I am) very hopeful that they [will] solve it soonest.”

‘Ghost’ projects

Retired Archbishop Oscar Cruz of the Diocese of Lingayen, in an interview over a Legazpi radio station, voiced similar suspicions.

Cruz said Mayor visited him on Feb. 24 and asked for his advice concerning irregularities in some public works projects in Bicol which Mayor would like to expose through the media.

Cruz said Mayor mentioned “ghost” construction projects and “tulay na drinowing” (fictitious bridge), including projects funded under the Countryside Development Fund of legislators.

Palace reacts

Mayor first created a sensation in 2005 when he testified in the Senate that President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s elder son, Pampanga Rep. Juan Miguel “Mikey” Arroyo, had received payoffs from operators of the illegal numbers game jueteng. The Arroyos denied the allegations.

Malacañang Monday sounded sure that Mayor’s murder was over business matters.

“Everything points to a construction bidding controversy in Albay that Mayor was involved in,” deputy presidential spokesperson Gary Olivar said in a statement.

Referring to Mayor’s previous testimony on jueteng payoffs, Olivar said: “We hope that the usual rumormongers in the opposition will refrain from peddling their innuendos on a matter as serious as this.”

22 gunshots

While investigators wrestled over the motive, one thing was apparently clear: Mayor was the sole target of Sunday’s ambush on a Pasay City road and that his motorcycle-riding assassins pumped 22 bullets into the car he was riding to make sure he did not survive.

Kept at the Pasay police parking lot, the black Volvo 850 car bore at least nine bullet holes on the right side of the windshield and more than 10 on the passenger’s windows, mostly on the right side.

“The assailants concentrated on one passenger who was at the front seat next to the driver and that was Mayor. They made sure of his death and showered him with 22 bullets,” said Senior Supt. Raul Petrasanta, Pasay police chief and head of a special task group investigating the case.

Heavily tinted but…

Police said the killers must have seen Mayor and his companions leave the casino of the City State Tower Hotel and board the car, before the shooting. Thus, even if the car was heavily tinted, they knew where he was seated, police said.

The Volvo had stopped at a traffic light when four men on two motorcycles sprayed the right side of the car with bullets.

Mayor’s son-in-law, Alan Benedict Castro, was wounded while a nephew, Rommel Mayor, was unscathed.

Co denial

Asked if the police were considering the statements separately made by another whistle-blower, Sandra Cam, Petrasanta said they would if she was willing to cooperate.

Cam said in a radio interview that Mayor was supposed to reveal alleged dubious contracts of the DPWH in Bicol and ready to come out with evidence. She said that according to Mayor, only one contractor, a “Zaldy Co,” was benefiting from the project.

In a statement Monday night, Elizaldy Co, board chair of the Sunwest Construction and Development Corp., said Cam should “refrain from using my name in media interviews as I am a private businessman.”

“It is unfortunate that my name is being dragged into the controversy of the passing away of Mr. Wilfredo Mayor,” Co said, adding his Sunwest firm had “no business dealings whatsoever” with Mayor.

Other angles

Petrasanta said the police were not limiting their probe to one angle.

“Because he was a contractor, we will look into who were the people he had been dealing with, what were his projects with the government, finished or unfinished, and whether he had incurred debts,” he said.

Petrasanta said police were not ruling out the jueteng angle but added “it was not likely because he laid low after he testified at the Senate.”

Supt. Rommel Miranda, spokesperson of the National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO), refused to discuss the three angles the police were looking into, saying he did not want to preempt the outcome of the probe.

Cherry told the Inquirer her husband showed no death premonition but exhibited signs of restlessness days before he was shot.

“The last time I personally talked with him was on Feb. 17 when he left for Manila to attend to some business matters there,” she said in the interview in Albay, where she has been a barangay chair since 2007.

He was secretive

Cherry also remembered her husband saying that he and his son-in-law Alan had visited Bishop Oscar Cruz and told him certain important matters.

“My husband was so secretive about his business affairs. I learned about his personal and business concerns from other people close to us,” she said.

“Though remote, the jueteng exposé was a possibility [as a motive]. It’s possible that they just let it cool down,” Cherry said.

But she said she had a strong feeling the planned exposé on the public works projects was the stronger motive.

Mayor’s remains lay in state in their home in Barangay Tagas. He will be buried on Saturday at Pristine Memorial Garden in Albay.

Aside from his wife, Mayor is survived by three children—Marlon, 35; Mischelle, 30; and Maybell, 28—and four grandchildren. With reports from Christine O. Avendaño, Leila B. Salaverria and Miko Morelos

Karen Ang

A plebeian who is trying to make small changes in this world.