Rogue members of an elite anti-crime police task force strangled a kidnapped publicist of former Philippine President Fidel Ramos and set fire to the corpse, officials said Thursday.
Authorities have arrested two farmers who admitted to having taken part in the disposal of the corpse of publicist Salvador Dacer, 63, and his driver, Manuel Corbito, Justice Secretary Hernando Perez told reporters.
He said the two suspects worked with members of the elite Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Task Force (PAOCTF), who they accused of kidnapping and murdering the victims.
Farmers Jimmy Lopez and Alex Diloy told a news conference at the justice department that the policemen strangled the victims with a length of electric cord, shortly after they were snatched from Manila on November 24.
They said they helped build a pyre of wood and old tires to dispose of the remains of the victims, who they said were set on fire after being doused with petrol.
Lopez and Diloy were arrested in the town of Indang south of Manila on Wednesday by agents of the justice department’s National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), Perez said.
One of the suspects admitted he was wearing Corbito’s shoes.
The agents recovered a pistol and a firearms permit from the PAOCTF from the two suspects.
An NBI statement quoted the witnesses as saying that the kidnappers brought Dacer and Corbito to a garage owned by Lopez’s brother where they were tied up and blindfolded.
Later that day, they were brought beside a creek where the two men were strangled. The farmers identified four members of the PAOCTF as being among more than 10 people who had taken part in the killing.
The NBI earlier asked state prosecutors to file kidnapping charges against one of these officers, Marino Soberano, who is at large.
The NBI is witholding the identities of the others involved.
NBI experts have recovered human bones and dentures from the site, believed to be those of the victims.
The motive for the killing was not given but a former Ramos aide has said that Dacer was living in fear of since deposed president Joseph Estrada because the then-president had blamed him for the bad publicity generated by a corruption scandal.
The scandal sparked a popular uprising that toppled Estrada in January.
Perez said the two suspects may be put under a witness protection program. He expressed hope that they might eventually lead to the mastermind behind the killings.
“The case is not closed. This is just a breakthrough because we still don’t know why this was done and who ordered them to do this,” Perez said.