A Regional Trial Court (RTC) in Guihulngan City, Negros Oriental has ordered the release from detention of Moises Padilla town’s vice mayor and three councilors, facing murder charges, after posting a bail of P200,000 each.
The four were implicated in the murder of then town councilor Jolomar Hilario in 2019, with co-accused former Isabela town’s Mayor Joselito Malabor and two barangay captains, with several others.
Mayor Ella Celestina Garcia-Yulo was also implicated in the crime but was earlier cleared after it was established that she was in jail for a different case when the alleged plan for Hilario’s murder was hatched.
Mayor Garcia-Yulo told newsmen that the release order was issued June 25, 2022 by acting Presiding Judge Eric Anthony E. Dumpilo of Branch 64, 7th Judicial Region, Guihulngan City, Negros Oriental who has earlier approved the motion to bail by the accused after the lone witness of the prosecution recanted.
The release order was issued to the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) in Bacolod City where Moises Padilla Vice Mayor Ian Villafor and Councilor Jimmiedon Plaza are detained, and to the Moises Padilla police chief where Councilors Morito Flores and Vincent Garcia are detained together with Quintin Remo Barangay Captain Fely Villaflor and her husband Jonathan who were also implicated in the case.
All the accused maintained innocence of the crime which the New People’s Army (NPA) admitted it carried out the murder.
Hilario was attacked inside his house in Barangay Inolingan, Moises Padilla by about 20 armed men believed to be members of the NPS in March 2019.
It can be recalled that the Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 63 in La Carlota City, Negros Occidental ordered in February 2021 the arrest of Villaflor and the three councilors as well as Jonathan and Fely and the other suspects including Mayor Malabor.
On August 23, Flores, and the Villaflor couple Jonathan and Fely surrendered at the town police station, where they were detained.
Four days later, on August 27, Garcia, nephew of Mayor Garcia-Yulo, also surrendered to the police.
On their part, Villaflor and Plaza voluntarily surrendered on September 1, 2021, to Negros Occidental Vice Governor Jeffrey Ferrer after six months and were placed in the custody of the NBI in Bacolod.
Malabor and two barangay captains of Isabela town, who were also implicated in the crime surrendered to Ferrer last February 10. It could not be established though as of presstime if they posted bail.
Vice Mayor Villaflor said he is thankful for the support of all the people who have helped them endure their more than one year of detention because of a crime they have nothing to do with and which he claimed is politically-motivated.
Villaflor won his re-election bid in the recently-concluded election while in detention together with re- electionist councilor Vincent Garcia.
Plaza and Flores who also sought re-election lost their bid.* (DSY)