BY GILBERT P. BAYORAN
The Presidential Task Force on Media Security (PTFoMS) announced yesterday that it has taken over the investigation of the murder of radio broadcaster Cornelio “Rex” Pepino in Dumaguete City, Negros Oriental, for better and tighter coordination between law enforcement agencies.
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra, who chairs the PTFoMS, said in a statement that he has designated Prosecutor Leonardo Mandajoyan to immediately step in and lead the Special Investigation Team for New Cases (SITN) that was convened to specifically probe the murder of Pepino.
“It is imperative that there is a pro-active involvement of the prosecutor during criminal investigation of cases involving media violence and other egregious human rights violations,” Guevarra said.
With the creation of the SITN, PTFoMS will provide an effective leadership in the conduct of a thorough and complete criminal investigation in the murder of Pepino with the assistance of the DOJ, the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), Undersecretary Joel Egco said.
Pepino hosted the “Pokpokin mo Baby” that aired over DYMD Energy FM 93.7. He was killed at point-blank range by motorcycle “riding-in-tandem” gunmen in front of his wife on May 5 in Dumaguete City.
Florence Baesa, DMYD Energy FM 93.7 station manager, in her letter to Guevarra, thanked him for the creation of SITN and for the taking over of the probe by PTFoMS, adding that they are now confident that those responsible for the murder of Pepino will be brought to justice.
Egco said in a statement that he already informed Brig.Gen Albert Ignatius Ferro, regional director of PRO 7, through a memorandum, that the Presidential Task Force shall be taking over the investigation of the case, following accusations hurled by a politician against the CIDG.
To ensure that the investigation proceeds unfettered and free from prejudices of localized intrusions, Egco directed the PNP to cease and desist in its own investigation and to fully cooperate and coordinate with the SITN.
Egco also cautioned law enforcement officers that any failure to cooperate with the Presidential Task Force or the SITN shall have dire consequences.
Egco earlier warned local officials in Negros Oriental not to obstruct the investigation of the case, after probers positively identified a car used as surveillance and getaway vehicle in the murder of Pepino was traced to the provincial government.
He also voiced concern when NBI agents investigating the case were subjected to serious threats and harassment by some unscrupulous individuals in the province.
“These underhanded tactics, attempts to whitewash the case, threats to law enforcers, and other evil schemes will only serve to strengthen our resolve to get to the bottom of this,” Egco further said in a statement.*