Fugitive Ilocos Town Ex-Mayor Indicted In 2017 Resort’s Forcible Take-over Surrenders

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BAGUIO CITY (August 14, 2020) – Former Cabugao, Ilocos Sur town mayor Edward Josh Cobangbang, 25, indicted last year with 17 other town officials and employees for serious illegal detention and grave coercion in connection with the 2017 forcible takeover of the Cabugao Beach Resort, surrendered to Ilocos region police director Brig. Gen. Rodoldo Azurin Friday noon.

Cobangbang, who had been into hiding since RTC branch 12 of Sanchez Mira Cagayan Executive Judge Gemma Bucayu-Madrid issued a Warrant of Arrest against him and 17 other Cabugao town officials and employees on October 22, 2019, surfaced with his father – former Cabugao mayor Edwardo Cobangbang at the regional office of the Ilocos police at San Fernando City, La Union

Azurin said the elder Cobangbang’s promise that his son will surface after the surrender of the 15 last Saturday materialized Friday.

Fifteen officials and employees of Cabugao earlier on Saturday (August 7, 2020) turned themselves in also to Azurin.  The 15 who surfaced through the intercession of the elder Cobangbang were:  Katrina Cruz Soriano, 33; Raquel Somera Ancheta, 51; Ednalyn Sabaten Silario, 46;Jessar Rei Siababa Cruz, 24; Constancia Lazo Quinola,61; Humprey Savellano Catriz, 39; Jerly Oda Manantan Flores, 24 Benny Sardeng Agbayani, 26; turned themselves in on Friday (August 6) and Kevin Segui Somera, 34; Austin Giorgio Soller Serna, 25; Alvin Silario Solis, 30; Ronillo Somera Santigo, 51; Renato Sabugo Roman, 57; Rexor Moisis Cruz Abara, 26; and  Richard Siruno Pula, 48.

They were reportedly pressured to give up when joint operatives of Cabugao police with the CIDG-Ilocos Sur, Regional Investigation and Detective Management Division (RIDMD), Regional Mobile Force Battalion 1 and Ilocos Sur Provincial Intelligence Unit launched a manhunt operation.

The younger Cobangbang, perhaps the country’s youngest elected town mayor in 2016 then at 21, was found by the DOJ on February 2019 that upon his orders,  town officials and employees “detained a resort operator and several employees during the closure of the resort”.

DOJ Undersecretary Deo Marco favored resort manager Virginia Nicole Savellano-Ong’s complaint where she, her then four-year old son and several resort employees were “detained” and “bullied” when the local government-owned Cabugao Beach Resort (CBR) was padlocked.

USec. Marco reversed an earlier panel of government prosecutors’ ruling that dismissed the charges.   The DOJ also saw that all the elements of illegal detention case were present when Cabugao employees ordered by Cobangbang, headed to shut down the resort, padlocked some rooms, closed the resort gates and stationed several believed-to-be armed men on August 23, 2017.

Marco also stayed an earlier ruling by an Ilocos Sur Special Prosecutor finding probable cause for serious illegal detention and grave coercion charges versus Mayor Cobangbang, town officials and employees after finding all the elements of these cases existed in the incident.

Serious illegal detention is a non-bailable offense.

Artemio A. Dumlao