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2020 Yearender: Shocking, unabated killings amid pandemic

Job Manahan, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 28 2020 05:44 PM | Updated as of Dec 28 2020 06:41 PM

MANILA — From motorcycle-riding assailants to a police officer pulling the trigger at his victims at close range, many killings that shocked the nation this year happened in broad daylight, with gun violence undeterred by COVID-19 restrictions across the country.

Here are the top crime stories that headlined ABS-CBN News in 2020. 

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Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News

Cop shoots dead ex-soldier on a quarantine checkpoint in QC

On the afternoon of April 21, more than a month since the enhanced community quarantine in Luzon, Winston Ragos, 34, was fatally shot by Police Master Sgt. Daniel Florendo Jr. in Quezon City after the former reached for a supposed firearm inside a sling bag.

Police earlier said Ragos, who was supposedly carrying a gun, came into an argument with the trainees manning the checkpoint. But some witnesses refuted this, saying he was unarmed. 

The ex-soldier, his family said, was also suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder after being assigned in the 2017 Marawi conflict.

The National Bureau of Investigation has already filed murder, perjury and planting of evidence charges against Florendo. 

Site of an alleged encounter between the police and the army in Jolo, Sulu on June 29, 2020. Courtesy of Fereida Pelaez

Jolo cops kill 4 soldiers in Sulu ‘misencounter’

Four soldiers were killed after an "encounter" with 9 policemen in Jolo, Sulu on the afternoon of June 29, 2020. 

The soldiers were conducting an operation against 2 suspected suicide bombers of the Abu Sayyaf group and were on board a van when they were flagged at a police checkpoint midway to Jolo town proper, according to a police report. 

Police earlier said the soldiers, who were not wearing their uniform and were on board a sport utility vehicle, had sped past a checkpoint. They allegedly pointed their guns at policemen, which prompted the clash. 

The then Philippine Army Chief Lt. Gen. Gilbert Gapay, now Chief of Staff, described the death of his soldiers as no less than murder. He also refused to acknowledge the circumstance as a "misencounter" between the military and the police.

Jingle Lucero, a private driver, was found dead in her car. Photo courtesy of CALAMBA CPS

Woman driver found dead in Calamba with 52 stab wounds

Private driver Jingle Lucero did not make it home after her last transaction with a passenger on June 28, 2020. 

Lucero was found dead in her car in Calamba City, Laguna with 52 stab wounds, mostly superficial and defense wounds, according to police. 

One of the 5 suspects in her killing has already been arrested, with authorities saying the crime was because of a supposed “love triangle.” 

Doland Castro, ABS-CBN News

National Center for Mental Health chief, aide shot dead in QC

On the morning of July 27, National Center for Mental Health (NCMH) chief Dr. Roland Cortez and his driver, NCMH employee Ernesto dela Cruz were found dead by police on patrol with gunshot wounds inside a red sedan parked on the corner of Cassanova Drive and Tandang Sora Avenue. 

A tricycle driver said gunmen onboard a motorcycle knocked on the victims' vehicle and shot at them as they opened the door. The assailants then fled towards Commonwealth Avenue, according to the initial police report.

QCPD director Police Brig. Gen. Ronnie Montejo has said Cortez’s work had something to do with his murder. At least 7 are currently facing charges regarding his death. 

Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News/File

Peasant leader Ka-Randy Echanis tortured to death

On Aug. 10, peasant leader and peace consultant Randall "Randy" Echanis and an unidentified neighbor were found dead early morning in a rented house in Novaliches, Quezon City, according to Anakpawis.

Echanis was tortured to death, said Commission on Human Rights Commissioner Leah Tanodra-Armamento. 

The peasant leader, whose body was autopsied by the commission, bore at least 15 wounds, including 2 on his head. He also died from a spiked weapon with a curved end, which was thrust into his back and hit his heart, said Armamento. 

Bacolod City Police Office

Activist Zara Alvarez killed in Bacolod City

Human rights activist Zara Reboton Alvarez was walking just outside her apartment in Bacolod City on the night of Aug. 17 when she was shot multiple times on the chest (thorax) by an unidentified male assailant, according to witnesses. She was 39.

Rights group Karapatan said Alvarez was the subject of death threats, identified in text messages as the number 1 target. These messages were received in July last year and shortly after her death.

As a community health worker and paralegal engaged in human rights work, she was branded by the military as an “NPA front” and had been declared persona non grata in one village.

ABS-CBN News

3 nursing students fatally stabbed in Caloocan City

Three nursing students in Caloocan City were found dead after they were stabbed allegedly by 2 construction workers on Sept. 27, authorities said. 

The victims, Mona Ismael, Glydel Belonio, and Arjay Belencio, were staying in a makeshift house as Belencio was asked to guard their house which was under construction nearby. 

The 3 were reviewing for the nursing board exams, according to Belencio's father. 

Stealing was one of the suspects' motives, police said, as Belencio previously reported instances of overpricing from construction workers for their materials. 

UP Portia Society

Manila RTC judge Abadilla shot dead inside office

Just one of the many slays of lawyers that shocked the legal community his year was the killing of Maria Teresa Abadilla, a judge at the Manila Regional Trial Court. She was shot dead by her employee inside her office on the afternoon of Nov. 11. 

Abadilla, 44, sustained gunshot wounds in the head. The alleged gunman, clerk of court Amador Rebato, 42, also died after shooting himself inside the judge’s office, according to police.

Police added that Rebato was submitting his resignation letter to Abadilla before the shooting incident happened. The two did not have any altercation during their 15-minute conversation, according to a witness.

Contributed photo

Lawyer shot in Palawan

Laywer Eric Magcamit was ambushed by unidentified assailants in Narra, Palawan on Nov. 17, while he was on the way to the municipality of Quezon for a hearing. 

Authorities said he was shot 3 times, which led to his death.

Over a week after the murder, the person allegedly behind the act surrendered to authorities and asked for protective custody. 

Photo from Municipal Government of Los Baños Facebook page/File

Los Baños, Laguna Mayor murdered in town hall

Los Baños Mayor Caesar Perez died after he was shot inside the municipal hall compound on Dec. 3. 

According to investigation, Perez, 66, just got back from a spa in Brgy. Baybayin when unidentified gunmen shot him at the back of his head at the town hall building around 8:40 p.m.

Last year, he was included in the Duterte administration's list of politicians with alleged links to illegal drugs.

ABS-CBN News

City health officer, local IATF incident commander, killed in Negros Oriental

Dr. Mary Rose Sancelan, a city health officer in Guihulngan City, Negros Oriental, and her husband, local Inter-Agency Task Force incident commander Edwin Sancelan, were killed aboard their motorcycle by bike-riding assailants on Dec. 15. 

The two were on their way home in Barangay Poblacion when unidentified assailants shot them several times, police said.

Investigators are looking at several angles behind the slays.

Right's group Karapatan's office in Negros Island alleged that Dr. Sancelan was on the hit list of an anti-communist vigilante group.

Photo from Paniqui Police Station

Policeman kills unarmed mother and son in Tarlac after heated argument

A viral video that drew widespread outrage across the country on Dec. 21 captured the brutal deaths of an unarmed mother and son in Paniqui, Tarlac in the hands of a policeman after an altercation over the use of “boga” or improvised bamboo cannon 5 days before Christmas.

The victims, Sonia Gregorio, 55, and Frank Anthony Gregorio, 25, were shot point blank by Police Staff Sgt. Jonel Nuezca on Sunday, Dec. 20. The murders happened after the officer's minor daughter, who proudly shouted "My father is a policeman,” was briefly mocked by Sonia.

Prosecutors in Tarlac found probable cause to charge Nuezca with 2 counts of murder, according to the Department of Justice. Lawmakers and Malacañang condemned the killings, netizens pointed to an alleged culture of impunity that emboldened the officer to pull the trigger, while the police force urged the public not to judge the entire institution over one cop's act. 

The hashtags #StopTheKillingsPH, #EndPoliceBrutality and #OUSTDUTERTENOW trended on Twittter over the incident on Monday morning.