Army reservist wanted ‘dead or alive’

By Ghio Ong
Army reservist wanted ‘dead or alive’

Armed and extremely dangerous, this man is wanted “dead or alive.”

The Manila Police District (MPD) has promised to apply the full force of the law against the motorist who shot dead a bicycle rider in a road rage incident in Quiapo, Manila last Monday night.

“The MPD wants him dead or alive. We want him,” said MPD director Senior Supt. Joel Coronel, referring to Army reservist Vhon Martin Tanto who gunned down cyclist Mark Vincent Geralde after a traffic altercation in Quiapo.

Coronel said Tanto was given until 5 p.m. yesterday to surrender. The suspect did not show up, prompting Coronel to order a manhunt.

The MPD chief said Tanto is considered “armed and extremely dangerous,” so police must take extra precaution and use deadly force if necessary.

The MPD would file charges of murder and frustrated murder against Tanto, who was caught on closed circuit television camera fatally shooting Geralde after the two exchanged punches along P. Casal street in Quiapo at 9:30 p.m. on Monday.

The shooting incident also injured 18-year-old Rocel Bondoc, who was hit by a stray bullet outside her house. She is currently in critical condition at Mary Chiles Hospital.

According to Coronel, records from the MPD’s investigation unit disclosed that Tanto was a resident of Fraternal corner Arlegui streets in Quiapo, Manila.

He added he was not seen at the vicinity of the said house since lunchtime yesterday.

He was a native of Cotabato City who migrated to Manila, and is primarily engaged in buy-and-sell business, Coronel said.

He was using a red Hyundai Eon car bearing conduction sticker MO-3745 and “was positively identified by witnesses in the area.”

Also, Tanto, being a reservist, is detailed at a community defense center in Caloocan City, Coronel added.

He said Tanto owns a licensed caliber .45 pistol and a caliber.40 Glock pistol.

“We will compare (the firearms) with the empty shells recovered from the crime scene to establish and strengthen our physical evidence against the suspect,” Coronel stressed.

Army officials have ordered military units to join the hunt against Tanto.

Army chief Lt. Gen. Eduardo Año said that on top of an ongoing police investigation, he has directed the Army Reserve Command (Arescom) to conduct its own probe on Tanto.

“Tanto is a reservist of the Philippine Army with the rank of private. He is assigned with the 1301st Community Defense Center National Capital Region Regional Community Defense Group of the Army Reserve Command based in Caloocan,” Año said.

Año said that aside from conducting the probe, Arescom is also tracking Tanto after he could no longer be located at his residence.

Misidentified

Meanwhile, a driver who was earlier identified as the road rage shooter of the bicycle rider in Quiapo went to the National Bureau of Investigation headquarters in Manila last night for paraffin and medical examination. He tested negative in both.

Nestor Punzalan, a Customs representative, was named in a social media post on Facebook that had gone viral.

His car, coincidentally also a red Hyundai Eon, has a different conduction sticker MO-3746.

Punzalan’s lawyer DJ Jimenez insisted that his client had no bruises or any sign of physical injury.

He also told reporters yesterday that Punzalan agreed to allow the NBI to inspect his car, which had no scratches on its right side.

Punzalan said he was traumatized by the false accusation and he went to the NBI to clear his name.

Jimenez also slammed netizens and social media pages that “irresponsibly and recklessly” tagged Punzalan as the suspect in the incident.

Jimenez said they might consider filing administrative and civil charges and even charges for violation of the Cybercrime Prevention Act in relation to online libel.

A copy of the CCTV footage was uploaded by the Facebook page of Top Gear Philippines.

A photo of Punzalan’s Facebook account and the conduction sticker of his car was also uploaded by a bikers’ page also on Facebook. As of this writing, the post has been taken down.

Later, an editor of the said page issued an apology for posting Punzalan’s vehicle, saying further that he would reach out to Punzalan.

Jimenez, however, said Punzalan’s camp would consider accepting the gesture later, since they still working to clear his client’s reputation.

                                  – With Jaime Laude