Widow of cop slain with Calbayog mayor rues withheld insurance claims

Ann Sario, the wife of Police Master Sergeant Rodeo Sario, who died in an ambush with Calbayog City Mayor Ronaldo Aquino on March 8, 2021, says the family’s only source of income today comes from her salary as a teacher

TACLOBAN, Philippines — The family of Police Master Sergeant Rodeo Sario, who died in an ambush along with Calbayog City Mayor Ronaldo Aquino on March 8, 2021, will not be able to claim his state insurance benefits until the court rules against others murder charges raised by police officers.

“Hindi pa po namin natatanggap to Death Claims from canyang Insurances, hanggang dyan sa office of PNP (Philippine National Police), dahil ang iba ay inaantay pa kung ano ang kalalabasan ng kaso”, Sario’s wife Ann told Rappler on Friday, September 30.

(We can’t get his death insurance claims, and even there in the PNP, because they want to wait for the case to be closed.)

Sario, who has two children, said the family’s only source of income today is her salary as a teacher.

“I just want justice. My husband shouldn’t die in vain,” Sario said.

Regional director Maximo Lasaca of the Eastern Visayas National Police Commission told Rappler that the agency has already approved the release of Sario’s benefits, including pension, funeral and burial benefits, and stipends for the children.

“Napirmahan ko na, and all it takes to make money, and ‘pag dumating, diretso na ‘yun (I’ve already approved it and we’re just waiting for the funds and as soon as the funds come in they will be released),” Lasaca said.

Sario revealed the family’s predicament after attorney Alma Uy, attorney for the slain mayor’s widow, called Criminal Investigation Chief Maj. Gen. Ronald Lee to a prison facility in Samar province where the crimes were committed on Monday, 26 Metro Manila .

Lieutenant Colonel Harry Sucayre, Major Shyrille Tan, Captain Dino Goles, Lieutenant Julio Armeza Jr., Staff Sergeant Neil Cebu, Staff Sergeant Edsel Omega, Staff Sergeant Randy Merelos, Corporal Julius Garcia, and Patrolman Niño Salem are charged with murdering Aquino, Sario, the Mayor’s drivers Dennis Abayon and Clint John Paul Yauder.

They also face a frustrated murder charge involving another security worker, Mansfield Labonite.

The accused were questioned via video conference.

The first hearing of evidence during the bail hearings scheduled for October 5, 11, 13 and November 9 and 10 will be the first time the court has required her to be present in person.

Judge Reynaldo Clemens of Division 31 of the Calbayog City Regional Trial on September 19 denied the request of two of the defendants, Goles and Garcia, to attend the bail hearing via videoconference.

Personal presence during the bail hearing is “absolutely necessary” for identification purposes, the judge said.

Goles and Garcia have previously denied being present during the ambush. The other co-defendants have admitted their presence at the scene of the ambush, the bridge in Barangay Lonoy.

The case had several twists and turns.

After police officers initially reported that Aquino was killed in an ambush, then PNP chief Debold Sinas claimed it was “a shootout” and claimed the mayor’s men fired on patrolling police officers.

However, the National Bureau of Investigation dismissed Sinas’ lawsuit and on June 10, 2021 filed complaints alleging murder and frustrated murders with the Department of Justice.

AMBUSH SIDE. The van of the assassinated Calbayog, Mayor of Samar, Ronaldo Aquino. File photo by Azmin Bonifacio/Rappler

Sinas’ successor, General Guillermo Eleazar, also vowed that the PNP would not protect the suspects.

In August 2021, the PNP Internal Affairs Service recommended the firing of five police officers suspected of the ambush: Sucayre, Tan, Armeza, Cebu and Omega.

The nine suspects surrendered to the PNP at Camp Crame on February 15, 2022, a day after Judge Cicero Lampasa of Division 32 of the Regional Trial Court in Calbayog City issued arrest warrants.

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