“Mastermind” behind mayor’s slay tagged

*Arrested accomplice spills the beans

*Mayor Hermitaño, a suspect, denies charges

*Two “hit men” linked to the crime nabbed in Ilocos Sur, Abra

CAMP JUAN, Laoag City, July 15—Police Provincial Director Senior Supt. Jose Melencio Nartatez Jr. disclosed that then vice mayor now new mayor Jessie Hermitaño of Marcos town in Ilocos Norte is the alleged mastermind behind the gun slaying of his predecessor, the late mayor Arsenio Agustin, also of Marcos town.

However, Hermitaño vehemently denied the charges saying “I was framed up” when reporters asked his reaction to the accusation against him.

PD Nartatez made the disclosure based on the testimony of a certain Bernie Lazo alias “Alex Vergara” and alias “Bayaw”, an alleged self-confessed accomplice in the crime.

Lazo, who reportedly served as long-time trusted man of the late mayor Agustin before his death, was earlier arrested in his hideout at Brgy. 16, San Nicolas, Ilocos Norte.

He said that after the killing he went into hiding in other places such as Baguio City, Santiago City (Isabela) and Cagayan.

When presented to the media during a press con held at the Ilocos Norte Police Provincial Office, this camp here, Lazo spoke in Ilocano dialect and tagged Hermitaño as the alleged mastermind behind the Agustin killing.

Lazo said he only served as a guide of the two gunmen on their way to the dam site where Mayor Agustin would be assassinated.

In their face-off at Camp Juan here, Hermitaño merely laughed off the allegation of Lazo hinting he would seek his lawyer’s help to prove his innocence of the crime.

PD Nartatez said Hermitaño was arrested at his residence in Marcos town and brought to the INPPO here in Laoag after police operatives searched his house in Marcos town on the early morning of Friday, July 14.

The initial search found firearms and ammunition owned by Hermitaño who claimed they are all licensed as he presented documents.

However, in the succeeding search near his back door, three suspected unlicensed firearms such as baby Armalite M-16 rifle and two Caliber .45 pistols were allegedly concealed underneath a deep well, report said.

A cop went down the deep well and fished out the three firearms caged in a net with attached empty plastic bottle for mineral water as a floater.

Hermitaño, however, told reporters that he disowned the three seized firearms found at the deep well claiming “the guns were planted” because the inventory of his licensed firearms and ammunition were already completed earlier.

The raid at Hermitaño’s house was part of the simultaneous different police operations covered by a search warrant issued by the Regional Trial Court.

A report said the search warrant for 16 premises was served in other places including Burgos, llocos Sur; and Abucay, Abra, where several suspects were arrested and brought to the INPPO here.

At press time, a report said that Mayor Hermitaño and other suspects remained under police custody at INPPO HQ pending the filing of formal charges against them. (Tri-Media report)