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Mendoza slay suspects arrested

Kristina Maralit

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The Philippine National Police’s-Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) pointed to two inmates including a past client of former Batangas Rep. Edgar Mendoza as the one who plotted his death and that of his companions earlier this month.

In a press briefing in Camp Crame, acting CIDG Chief PBGen. Jose Napoleon Coronel identified the primary suspect as murder convict Sherwin Sanchez, who allegedly conspired with fellow New Bilibid Prisons (NBP) inmate Arthur Fajardo to have Mendoza killed by other persons outside the penitentiary.

The charred remains of the former lawmaker and his aides, Ruel Ruiz and Nicanor Mendoza, were found inside their vehicle in Tiaong, Quezon last 9 January.

“Based on the information we have gathered and statements of witnesses, the victim was ordered killed upon the instructions of principal suspect Sherwin Sanchez who is presently detained at the New Bilibid Prison, in conspiracy with another detainee, Mr. Arthur Fajardo, who is a member of the Fajardo kidnap-for-ransom group who has been detained since 2005,” Coronel said as he presented the suspects before the media.

Also arrested in relation to the killings were Jael Fajardo, Arthur’s wife; Jael’s helpers, Madonna Palomar and Kristine Fernandez; Carlo Acuña; and Ericsson Balbastro, the latter believed to be the one “involved in the killing, burning, and transporting of remains” of Mendoza and his companions.

Another person of interest, Rodel Mercado, is still on the loose and is now the subject of the police’s manhunt operations.

According to Coronel, a money dispute could possibly be the motive behind the crime.

“On the day Congressman Mendoza disappeared, he was supposed to collect a sum of money from representatives of principal suspect in Calamba City. There was a disagreement on the amount to be collected,” explained the CIDG chief.

The initial investigation revealed that Sanchez, convicted of murder in 2015, had no intention of paying legal fees to Mendoza and that they had disagreements on the amount to be collected by the former congressman.

“Instead of paying the amount, amounting to millions of pesos, they just contacted a hired gun, contracted killers for the killing of Mr. Mendoza for the sum of P100,000,” Coronel noted, and added that the suspects received a downpayment of P10,000 to carry out the gruesome deed.

Sanchez then conspired with Fajardo who then instructed his wife, Jael, to hire the killers.

The victims were persuaded to meet with Jael in her residence in Calamba City to get the money. Upon their arrival, they were served with coffee laced with sleeping pills.

Mendoza and his aides later went unconscious, carried back inside their car and met their horrific death.

“Apparently, after the effects of the drugs have worn off, they were stabbed and struck by hard objects in the head, causing their death,” Coronel said.

The dead victims were then transported to Tiaong, Quezon where they and their vehicle were set on fire.

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