A city councilor has tagged two police officers of possible involvement in the killing of Vietnamese businessman Kim Vu Dang inside his warehouse in Brgy. Santa Monica on May 8.

Councilor Elgin Damasco said Monday that, based on his own probe into the case, a certain P/SSgt. Miguel Cuarteros harassed the victim on at least two occasions before he was killed, intercepting him twice while transporting lobster fry from the southern part of the province to the city.

Damasco claimed that Cuarteros had told Vu Dang he needed an exclusive permit to transport lobster fry, and had offered services to secure it for P3.5 million. He claimed that the victim met Cuarteros on May 2 to hand over to him an initial payment of P2 million.

He further alleged that on the night of the murder, P/Lt. Col. Mark Allen Palacio, the police community relations officer of the PPCPO and member of the Special Investigation Task Group Vu Dang, entered the victim’s residence and potentially interfered with the CCTV footage related to the incident.

“As alleged by the witnesses, pumasok siya sa crime scene at ang una niyang hinanap sa mga tauhan ni Vu Dang ay ang CCTV. Una umano nitong pinasok ang bodega at napag-alaman na sinira na ang CCTV server sa loob,” he said.

“Nagawa pa nitong pumasok sa mismong kwarto ng mag asawa at kinalikot din ang CCTV at meron itong dalawa pang kasama,” he added.

Damasco claimed that the CCTV was able to record the shooting incident involving Vu Dang, but it could no longer be found when his wife and the technician checked the day after the incident.

Reacting to Damasco’s allegation, Palacio explained that he went to the scene of the crime upon the instructions of Puerto Princesa City Police Office (PPCPO) director P/Col. Ronie Bacuel and because he lives in the same subdivision as the victim.

He denied tampering with the CCTV footage and stated that he was the first police officer to arrive at the crime scene since his house was only around 200 meters away.

“Iisang subdivision lang [ang] bahay ko at bahay ni Vu, 200 meters lang [ang] bahay niya dun sa entrance ng subdivision. [Ang] bahay ko sa dulo, kilala ako ng mga kasambahay ni Vu, at ako kilala ko din [siya],” Palacio told the media through Facebook messenger.

He stated that the CCTV footage upstairs was fine when they viewed it, dating back to May 7 when the gunman first went to the house to sell lobster. However, the one downstairs was on freeze mode.

Palacio added that he was not the first person to enter the warehouse where Vu Dang was shot because there were already people inside when he arrived.

“[Yung] sa taas ok [siya], nag backtrack pa nga kami ng record mula ng Sunday na nagbenta ng lobster [yung] gunman, kaso sa taas [lang] yun, kasi [sa] baba, nung pumasok [ang] tropa at [yong] technician, sabi nila naka freeze daw, at [tiningnan ko] ganun nga. Note, di po [ako ang unang] pumasok dun. Pagdating [ko] dun, madami [ng] tao sa loob ng bodega ni Vu kung saan [siya] nabaril,” he said.

“Pinalabas [ko sila] at pinaiwan [ko lang yong] 2 babae na kapatid ni Rachelle (Vu’s wife), at nung dumating [yung] pulis, 2 or 3 [minutes] after I arrived, pinabantay [ko siya sa] pinto ng CCTV control room, at hindi nagreview ng CCTV ang PNP personnel ng walang presence ng kasambahay ni Vu dun,” he dded.

He explained that his primary concern was to identify the individuals inside the victim’s house and those who were not, as he suspected that the gunman might still be present inside and could potentially shoot at anyone present.

According to Palacio, it was only then that he learned that Vu had already been taken to the hospital.

Regarding the alleged P2 million handed to Cuarteros, Palacio stated that someone else would be able to provide information about it, as he was not involved in any way.

“Dun naman sa case daw na 2 million, meron magsasabi ng para [dyan], kasi di naman [ako] kasali sa ganun. Pero may magbibigay ng statement [dyan], pribadong tao, negosyante, ayaw niya mapangalanan, pero sasabihin nya kung anu naging transaction [nila],” he said.

Palacio also pointed out that he was surprised when he learned that there was an order to remove him from his post at the city police office without any apparent reason.

He argued that they should have been provided with information regarding the reason behind their transfer to Romblon and Marinduque, respectively, in order to understand the basis for the decision.

“At may twist pa, ang order ko sa Romblon at si Miguel (Cuarteros) sa Marinduque, na kung saan di ako makakauwi pag may emergency kasi as far as I know, may schedule ng biyahe sa Romblon. Kaya po siguro (just my opinion) nung nakita eto ng taas, binawi nila yung order ko. Di ba unfair po sa amin yun? May gusto na sa akin gawin na kwento, at gusto pa talaga ako itapon sa malayo. Where is the right of the.person to be heard? [Paano] ako makakuha ng attorney ko of my choice kung dun sa bagong lugar at yung witness ko din is di ko basta mapupuntahan?” he lamented.

Palacio stated that he has no motive to cause harm to Vu Dang. He clarified that they are not friends or enemies, but merely neighbors. He sees no reason for him to bring any harm or negative implications to Vu’s family.

Palawan News is attempting to contact Cuarteros for his reactions and comments.

Meanwhile, Damasco stated that the suspect identified by the police, based on witnesses’ accounts, had voluntarily presented himself and sought assistance, vehemently denying any involvement in the murder.

Reportedly, a certain Mark Anthony Rodriguez turned himself in to Damasco on June 28 to refute the accusations made against him.

“Last week, Mark Anthony Rodriguez surrendered to me as he wants to clear his name, saying he was in Barangay Concepcion on the night of the murder, having [a] drinking session with his friends. We presented him to Mayor Lucilo Bayron and then turned him over to the police,” Damasco said in a privilege speech he delivered during the Sangguniang Panlungsod session on Monday.

The PPCPO also issued a statement last Friday, indicating that Rodriguez is now in the custody of the SITG Vu Dang, as he requested police protection due to alleged threats to his life.

The police have filed murder and frustrated murder charges against Rodriguez.

Bacuel, during a press conference on Monday morning, July 3, stated that the case had already been forwarded to the City Prosecutor’s Office, and they are currently awaiting developments.

Regarding the involvement of the two police officers, he said an investigation is underway due to the allegations made by Vu Dang’s family.

“Ang allegation, nag-start doon sa family. Ang family naman kasi, since yong kaso nai-refer na sa prosecutor, and once ang kaso na-refer na sa prosecutor, we will just wait kung ano ang magiging kalalabasan,” he said.

“Mayroon din kaming separate validation na ginagawa, and with the guidance of the regional office, yong mga dokumento at mga reports namin, from PPCPO, we are sending our reports to the regional office for information and at the same time, guidance po sa atin,” he added.

Bacuel affirmed that Vu Dang’s family has the right to pursue a criminal case, while the PPCPO reserves the option to pursue an administrative case if deemed necessary.