By NORA SORIÑO
GSD-Iligan bureau chief
ILIGAN City––Hundreds of supporters of suspended Mayor Celso Regencia turned up at a prayer rally organized by Msgr. Jemar Vera Cruz here on Saturday morning.
Supporters of Regencia and kibitzers filled the roofed part of the plaza here and people even spilled out to the side street as Vera Cruz led the prayer rally imploring the divine intervention “so that the true culprits responsible for the ambush will be brought to justice and pay for their crimes.”
Regencia has been charged with murder and is being sought in connection with the ambush of Iligan Rep. Vincente Belmonte and his men last year.
The names of the three fatalities in the ambush––PO3 Marcus Andres, PO3 Ian Dumaguing, and Eustaquio Silanan––were placed at the center of the plaza at the foot of the flagpole.
Before the prayer rally, Regencia’s supporters marched through this city’s major streets.
The main topic of the prayer rally revolved around “the injustice done not only to Regencia but to the people of the city.”
Lawyer Demosthenes Plando talked about a court’s hasty decision “without giving time on the part of Regencia on its motion for reconsideration on the judicial determination of probable cause.”
Other speakers included lawyers from the “Call for Justice” like Ver Quimco, Ed Prospero and former prosecutor Samson Dajao.
Aside from the three priests present during the prayer rally, two pastors also attended: Pastor Cocoy Sabarre and Pastor Demecillo of Jesus is Lord Movement.
Meanwhile, reports of the judge handling the case against Regencia taking a leave of absence should not be taken with “malice,” Belmonte’s lawyer Rejoice Subejano said over the weekend.
“That is the judge’s right and probably she had filed it earlier. Judge Marissa Estabaya is an upright one,” said Subejano. Estabaya is the presiding judge of Regional Trial Court Branch 44, here in Iligan.
Earlier, in a radio interview, Regencia’s lawyer Orlando Salatandre Jr. pointed out that the court issued a warrant of arrest against his client before they could even file a motion. He also complained that the Estabaya went on leave without saying when she would be back “whether it was before or after the issuance of said warrant.”
Salatandre also complained that the principal witness, Dominador Tumala had two versions of his confession. The first, Tumala made on Dec. 16 before Belmonte’s lawyers and the second was on Jan. 17. this year.
He argued that the first confession pointed to “an army man due to landgrabbing” while the second confession pointed to the “mayor (Regencia)” as the mastermind behind the ambuscade.
He said Tumala could just be a “fall guy.” Salatandre earlier expressed his surprise at the swiftness of the prosecutors to decide on the probable cause to indict his client.
To this, Subejano retorted that both confession had been studied and considered by the panel of prosecutors and pleaded for Regencia to “respect the law and allow due process to take its course.”
Regencia and Belmonte are both gunning for the mayoral seat next year.
Regencia, meanwhile, is at large at presstime.