PHILIPPINE National Police (PNP) Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) Director Brigadier General Ronald Lee on Wednesday, December 21, 2022, said they are looking into the involvement of more policemen in the disappearances of 34 e-sabong (electronic cockfight betting) enthusiasts.

In a press conference, Lee said they are currently gathering evidence for the filing of charges against policemen allegedly involved in the abduction of e-sabong master agent Ricardo Lasco.

Lasco was abducted by more than 10 individuals who introduced themselves as agents from the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) in his residence in San Pedro, Laguna in August 2021.

“Mayroon pa kaming mga hinahanap na mga personalities diyan and hopefully ay makapaghanap pa rin kami ng mga kaukulang ebidensya para makapagsampa din kami ng mga karagdagan na kaso,” said Lee.

(We still have wanted personalities out there and hopefully we can still find relevant evidence so we can also file additional cases.)

“Hindi ko masabi kung ilan basta meron pa kaming mga suspects. Meron po nasa (police) service, karamihan nasa service and mayroon din mga civilian,” he added.

(I can’t say how many but we have suspects. Most are in the police service but there are also civilians.)

In April, charges of serious illegal detention/kidnapping and robbery were filed before the Department of Justice against five policemen, namely, Daryl Paghangaan, Roy Navarete, Henry Sasaluya, Michael Claveria and Regil Brosas, after they were positively identified by witnesses as among those who forcibly took Lasco from their residence.

On Tuesday, December 20, Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla said the investigating panel found probable cause to charge Paghangaan, Navarete and Brosas.

“The complaints against the other respondents were dismissed for lack of probable cause. The charges against the three police officers would be filed before the Regional Trial Court of San Pablo City, Laguna,” the DOJ said.

The five cops were also dismissed from the service due to their alleged involvement in the incident, PNP Spokesperson Colonel Jean Fajardo said.

No leads yet

Lee admitted that they have yet to pinpoint the brains behind the disappearances of the 34 cockfighting aficionados, which were also investigated by the Senate.

On March 18, the CIDG filed charges of serious illegal detention and kidnapping against eight identified security personnel of the Manila Arena over the disappearance of John Claud Inonog, Marlon Baccay and his brother James, Mark Joseph Velsco, Rondel Cristorum and Rowel Gomez, all from Tanay, Rizal on January 13.

One of them, Julie Patidongan, was also charged over the disappearance of Michael Bautista, who was last seen outside a cockfighting arena in Sta. Cruz, Laguna on April 28, 2021.

The said cockpits in Manila and Laguna were being operated by Lucky 8 Star Quest Inc., which is owned by gaming tycoon Atong Ang.

Following an inquiry, the Senate Committee on Public Order and Dangerous Drugs recommended the PNP-CIDG and NBI to further investigate the officials of Lucky 8 Star Quest, Inc., including its owner Ang, after his name was repeatedly mentioned by witnesses during the hearings.

However, Lee said until now, they do not have any leads implicating Ang on the case of missing individuals.

Lee said they still consider the e-sabong enthusiasts as missing individuals unless there is solid evidence that they are already dead.

“I don’t want na bigyan po kayo ng (to give you) pag-asa, ng false hope. We will still pray for a miracle,” he said.

“Yes, missing pa rin. Unless may makita po tayo na ebidensya, na body of evidence ay missing pa rin po,” he added.

Remulla earlier said instead of “missing,” “dead” is a more precise term to address the 34 sabungeros. (SunStar Philippines)