Remulla offers monthly dialogues
MANILA — Families of missing "sabungeros" or cockfight bettors on Friday met with Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin "Boying" Remulla asking for one thing from the Department of Justice: the release of the resolution of the department's probe into their disappeared kin.
Authorities have been investigating the disappearance of 34 cockfighting aficionados for over a year now, with complaints officially filed with the Justice Department in March and April this year.
But several months on, there’s still no trace of DOJ prosecutors’ recommendation on whether or not criminal charges will be filed in court against those allegedly behind their disappearance.
Families were optimistic the meeting with Remulla will provide them with assurance.
"Nagpapasalamat ako dahil nabigyan kami ng pagkakataon makapunta dito sa DOJ, na sana mapansin kami. Sana ito na pagkakataon na makita namin ang hustisya para sa aming mga anak," septuagenarian Ma. Carmelita Lasco said.
Accompanied by her children, Carmelita attended the meeting in a wheelchair, her hands clasping a framed photo of her 44-year-old son Ricardo “Jonjon” Lasco, Jr., who was last seen in San Pablo City in Laguna on August 30, 2021.
Her daughter Charlene hopes the meeting with Remulla will lead to faster action on the part of the DOJ.
“Umaasa kami na, nakita naman niya kami, yung aming presensya rito is enough na para makumbinsi siya na kailangan na niyang bigyan ng aksyon itong aming hinihiling na resolution,” she said.
Like Carmelita, Lita Bacay felt confident the meeting would lead to a positive outcome.
Two of her sons — James and Marlon — remain missing to this day.
“Medyo gumaan naman ang aming kalooban. Medyo malinaw. Sana ngayong Pasko makuha na namin yung positive na resolution para mabigyan kami ng hustisya…” she said.
A retired army personnel, Master Sergeant Mario Velasco, Jr., is also hoping for answers as to the whereabouts of his son, Mark Joseph.
“Hiniling namin sa kanya na pa-Christmas na niya sa amin na ilabas na yung resolusyon nang sa ganun po e luminaw ang usaping ito at makamit namin kahit papaano ang justice,” he said.
NO TIMELINE YET FOR RELEASE OF RESOLUTION
But Remulla had no immediate answers as to what was causing the delay in the release of the DOJ probe resolution.
“I don’t know. Tatanungin ko,” he told reporters, referring to Prosecutor General Benedicto Malcontento, who leads the National Prosecution Service.
Remulla was asked specifically about the case of John Claude Inonog, who went missing along with 5 others on January 13 this year. They were last seen at the Manila Arena.
His father, Butch, had told senators during a Senate probe in February that his son, who was not a cockfighting aficionado but a driver, managed to tell him over the phone that they were being abducted before his phone was taken away.
Butch was among the complainants before the DOJ. He is pressing for the release of the resolution.
Sources told ABS-CBN News that the handling prosecutors had long submitted the resolutions to the pending complaints to the Office of the Prosecutor General.
Malcontento, the Prosecutor General, only said the resolutions would be released "very soon."
Remulla on Friday said he would push for the release but could not promise a specific timeline.
“Kung meron nang resolusyon, palalabasin natin,” he said.
“I cannot promise anything that I cannot control. But I can urge them to resolve it in the soonest possible time,” he said in another ambush interview.
On Thursday, CIDG and the family of another missing sabungero, Michael Bautista, filed a new complaint for kidnapping and serious illegal detention with the DOJ against 2 persons identified in the cellphone video taken in Laguna in April last year.
The police consider the identification of the 2 men as a big breakthrough in the case of the missing cockfighting aficionados.
But Remulla said it’s early to say if there’s a criminal syndicate behind the disappearances.
“Not yet at that level. But it’s a concerted effort. There looks to be a group behind it. May sinusundan silang ganun,” he said.
Butch said that while the Justice secretary did not provide a direct answer to his question as to when the DOJ resolution will be released, he said he found the mood during the meeting encouraging.
“Pinakamaganda narinig namin sa loob, yung pinagmamalaki ng WPC (World Pitmasters Cup) na mag-oopening sila, katulad ng sinabi ni Presidente Marcos at sinabi ni SOJ, sinabi ni PNP, sinabi ni DILG, walang e-sabong na magaganap. Kaya pasintabi na lang po, pasensya na lang po sa mga naghahanapbuhay sa e-sabong, pasensya na po, sana wag po kayong abutin nitong problemang pinagdadaanan namin,” he said.
Aside from the families, present during the meeting with Remulla on Friday were PNP officials including Criminal Investigation and Detection Group chief Brigadier General Oliver Lee, National Bureau of Investigation and Department of the Interior and Local Government officials.
Remulla promised authorities would continuously search and investigate the cases and offered to meet with the families of the missing sabungeros regularly.
“Nag-agree kami magkaroon ng regular dialogues. Hopefully every second Wednesday of the month. January ang susunod. Magkikita kami uli,” he said.
Families of the missing sabungeros meanwhile appealed to the public for any piece of information that could help their case.
“Sana naman po, kung meron kayong alam, kahit kaunti lang, malaman lang namin kung ano talaga nangyari sa kanila, bakit hindi sila umuwi,” said Eloisa Bohol, who is still looking for her son Kiel Daniel Bohol.
They remained hopeful their sons and loved ones are still alive.
“Hangga’t wala pong nakikita, umaasa pa po kami,” said Marilyn Germar, mother of Glenn Arzen who went missing after he was last seen at the Santa Cruz cockpit arena.
The search and the wait for news about their missing kin is even harder for a mother of two like Armilyn Almasar, who needs to take care of 2 toddlers left behind by her live-in partner Romaldo Diano.
“Sobrang hirap po kasi yung panganay ko po naghihintay sa kanya. Naghahanap po talaga siya ng papa niya. Lagi pong nagtatanong kelan daw po uuwi papa niya,” she said.
“Wala po akong masagot, di ko rin alam,” she added, hoping she’ll find the answers soon.