Cavite gunman's aide arrested

By Jojo Malig, ABS-CBNnews.com

Posted at Jan 04 2013 08:20 PM | Updated as of Jan 05 2013 08:29 PM

MANILA, Philippines (4th UPDATE) - A man who helped a deranged gunman kill at least 7 people has been arrested, police said Friday night.

The suspect, identified as John Paul Lopez, was seen helping Ronald Bae load his gun during his shooting spree, investigators said.

Authorities had offered a P100,000 reward for information leading to Lopez's arrest after he went missing.

Lopez,  a house caretaker, said Bae threatened to kill him if he did not follow his orders.

"Natutukan po ako ng baril. Hindi na po ako makatakbo. Nakatutok na po iyung baril sa akin," he told his mom, Normita Lopez, in an exclusive interview with radio dzMM.

Lopez told police that he personally knows the gunman but denied voluntarily loading bullets for Bae's gun.

"Hindi po. Hindi po totoo iyon. Isa lang po dala niyang magasin.  Iyung natitira niya pong isa, tinututok po niya sa akin, nadagdagan po iyung bala niya," he said.

Lopez also denied using drugs.  However, he admitted drinking liquor with Bae. "Uminom lang po nung  gabi, pero magdroga po, hindi."

He said Bae went amok because of a family problem.

Police said Lopez will still undergo investigation if he is liable for the incident.

Her mother said she is worried about her son.

"Nung mapanood ko po sa TV, naghihintay nga po ako ng contact," she told dzMM.

She said she wanted to know if her son is already in the hands of the local officials.

"Matatakutin po ang anak ko," she said. "Masipag na bata po siya. Kilala po siya sa amin. Wala naman pong ano iyang batang iyan."

"Kinuha po iyang caretaker po. Nag-aala po ng mga manok. Tiwala naman po kami," she added.

8 dead, 10 injured

Bae, the gunman, was shot dead after he killed at least 7 people and left 10 others injured.

Allegedly fueled by drugs and liquor, Bae went from house to house shooting people.

One woman saw him enter their home and shoot 3 of her grandchildren -- one of whom died.

"Di ko akalain na papasukin ang bahay ng anak ko. Pinagbabaril yung mga bata," said Aniolina Camol.

The victims knew who the gunman was.

Bae had been drinking since Thursday night and started started shooting at his neighbors on Friday morning, using a .45-caliber pistol.

The victims include a pregnant woman and her 3-year-old son.

Police killed Bae after he refused to surrender.

"Kahit pinapasuko binaril na ng mga pulis namamaril pa rin siya," Borromeo said.

Bloodbath

"It was random. He would fire at anybody who crossed his path," Kawit police investigating officer Arnulfo Lopez told Agence France-Presse.

The shooting spree lasted for about half an hour.

Residents hid in their homes and gardens as the armed man, a former low-level local politician, roamed through narrow streets and a market.

"As we were hiding out in the muddy yard, I was thinking about my nephews and niece (in their house)," resident Edwin Lacorte told AFP.

"I wanted to go back. The children were crying for help, but what can you do, the man has a gun."

Most of Bae's victims were his neighbours.

One of the others killed was 56-year-old Alberto Fernandez, who was shot as he stood on his porch, according to the victim's brother-in-law, Lito Ronquillo.

Ronquillo spoke to AFP in the narrow street where the initial shootings took place. A bullet hole could be seen in a window above the porch where Fernandez died.

Bae had once served on a local council but was also a known drug dealer and had been taking methamphetamines since New Year's Eve, said Cavite Gov. Juanito Victor Remulla.

Borromeo also told reporters that "paraphernalia" used for methamphetamines, known locally as shabu, had been found at Bae's home.

Borromeo said Bae had originally been looking for an auto rickshaw driver who lived in a shanty home behind the gunman's house, but was not there at the time.

Bae then started started shooting randomly, according to Borromeo, although he said it was still unclear why the gunman had been hunting the driver.

Slow police response?

Calabarzon regional police director Chief Supt. James Melad said murder charges will be filed against Lopez if police find strong evidence against him. "Kakasuhan natin ng murder ito based doon sa ebidensiya na makakalap natin."

He said police are continuing their investigation into the bloodbath, including possible lapses committed by police, in response to allegations that authorities' response was slow.

The police chief of Kawit and his deputy have been relieved of their posts pending an investigation to find out if law enforcers were negligent.

"May mga allegations na mabagal, umabot ng 2 to 3 hours daw (before police were deployed to the crime scene)," Melad said.

However, he added that it only took 9 minutes when police first received a report about the shooting incident for them to go to the area and shoot the suspect.

"Sa aking paniniwala naman, wala naman sigurong mag-aamok ng aabot ng 3 hours," Melad said.

He said the Bae's body will undergo autopsy and results will be out Saturday morning.

He said the official bodycount of police is 8 dead, including the gunman.

Friday's shooting came after the New Year's Eve deaths of a 7-year-old girl and a 4-year-old boy by celebratory gunfire triggered outrage and condemnation of the Philippines' poorly enforced gun laws.

There were 1.2 million registered firearms in the Philippines last year, with another 600,000 unlicensed weapons in circulation, according to data from the police firearms and explosives office.

President Benigno Aquino's spokeswoman said Friday's killings emphasized the need to get unlicensed firearms off the streets.

"This incident will certainly fuel the efforts of the PNP (Philippine National Police) in its drive against loose firearms," spokeswoman Abigal Valte said. - with reports from Eric Dastas and Noel Alamar, dzMM; ANC; Agence France-Presse