Cops linked to journo slay sought

August 15, 2020

NPC raised ‘obstruction of justice’ issue vs. PNP

THE National Press Club of the Philippines (NPC) is seeking government assistance in verifying the whereabouts of two policemen from the Negros Oriental Provincial Police Office (NOPPO) whom the Club believes can shed light on the May 5, 2020, cold-blooded murder of Dumaguete City broadcast journalist, Rex Cornelio Pepino.

In a letter to Presidential Task Force on Media Security (PTFoMS) executive director, Joel Sy Egco dated August 14, 2020, NPC vice president Paul M. Gutierrez, said they are seeking government assistance in locating the present assignments of policemen, Reuel Divinagracia Pinero and Melvin Bulandres.

Both policemen, the Club said, can shed light on Pepino’s murder which has drawn wide condemnation from local, national and international media and human rights organizations.

As the two cops are being sought by the task force in relation to Pepino’s death, the Club raised the possibility that the PNP leadership has committed “obstruction of justice.”

In the case of Pinero, Gutierrez said a social media post last August 12, 2020, showed the policeman’s wife, Nelly, and their two children, appealing to the leadership of the Philippine National Police (PNP) and to Pres. Duterte for help in locating his whereabouts.

Pinero was allegedly pickedup by “high-ranking officials” of the PNP from Dumaguete City last August 8, 2020 and brought to the National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) to take his “new assignment.” The NCRPO is under P/MGen. Debold Sinas.

Pinero’s family bewailed that they have lost contact with him since then.

Sources claimed that Pinero was the driver of a vehicle owned by the provincial government of Negros Oriental being linked to Pepino’s murder.

Bulandres, his colleague on the other hand, is also said to have “crucial knowledge” about Pepino’s killing. Bulandres had also “disappeared” at the NOPPO, Club sources said, and is now also believed with the NCRPO.

“In order to shed light on these disturbing developments, may we seek your assistance in confirming the actual whereabouts of policemen Bulandres and Pinero, if they are indeed now with the NCRPO and also, the circumstances surrounding their ‘transfer’ there,” the NPC asked Egco.

Gutierrez, also the Club’s Press Freedom Committee chair and PTFoMS representative, added they were informed that Pinero was brought to Manila on board a helicopter “arranged by the PNP.”

The information was confirmed by an “exclusive” social media post by Dumaguete local radio station, 93.7 ‘Original Energy’ FM, last August 14, 2020. It showed Pinero being escorted by policemen in camouflage uniform towards two waiting helicopters owned by the PNP.

The radio station is where Pepino used to work before he was killed.

The post also said Pinero was transported “from Cebu to Iloilo to Manila” on August 4, 2020.

The radio station also identified Pinero as “a close-in security” of Negros Oriental governor, Roel Degamo. The top local official previously sued Pepino for slander but lost.

“In short, the possibility of obstruction of justice by the top leaders of the PNP, insofar as giving justice to Pepino is concerned, is something that also greatly disturbs all the members of the Fourth Estate,” Gutierrez stressed.

The Club also gave Egco the “liberty” to distribute its letter to all the national media organizations, which are also its “media partners.”

Copies of the letter were also sent to Secretary Martin Andanar, PCOO and Secretary Menardo Guevarra, DOJ, who both chair the task force; DILG secretary Eduardo M. Año, Sinas and PNP director general, Archie Gamboa.