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PIA Press Release
2007/09/19

Task Force Rigonan files murder charges vs suspects in priest's slay

by Cristina Arzadon

LAOAG CITY (19 September) -- Murder charges have been filed against two relatives of a balikbayan couple who served as benefactors of slain Catholic priest Florante Rigonan.

The Task force Rigonan, composed of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group and the Ilocos Norte Police Provincial Office, filed its recommendation with the Ilocos Norte Provincial Prosecutor's Office on September 11 charging cousins Liwliwa and Lyndia Macalma for the killing last August 28.

Rigonan, 48, parish priest of St. Isidore in Pinili town, was gunned down after leaving the house of Florencio and Elisea Macalma, a wealthy balikbayan couple which served as benefactors for a newly-built parish church.

The Macalma couple, who have been living in San Francisco, California, went for a vacation in Pinili town and donated P5 million to Rigonan to help build the new church.

Provincial Prosecutor Melecio Felipe has created a panel of prosecutors today (September 13) to evaluate the evidence that the task force has submitted and determine whether there is a ground to conduct a preliminary investigation.

Felipe ordered Prosecutors Bernardo Agdigos, Valentin Pascua and Virgie Ines Lomuntad to submit their findings on the case within seven days.

"There is no need to rush (with the investigation). Even if would take months or years as long as we have a strong case against the authors of this heinous crime," Felipe said.

Felipe said that some sectors have been pressing for the immediate resolution of the killing including Ilocos Norte Gov. Michael Keon and Laoag Bishop Sergio Utleg.

The task force based their recommendation on the sworn statements of at least seven witnesses including the priest's sister Eva Lina Rigonan and benefactor Elisea Macalma.

In her affidavit, Rigonan's sister recalled how the priest related to her that he had been receiving threats on his life from cousins Liwliwa and Lyndia who supposedly bore envy and resentment against the priest because of the amount he received from the Macalma couple to build the church.

The cousins were supposed to have been likewise envious of other benefits that the priest had been receiving from the couple such as a van that the priest had been using in his parish activities including his alleged appointment as administrator of the couple's properties.

In her affidavit, Elisea Macalma said that Liwliwa also appeared to have resented that the couple took Rigonan along with them in the United States and paid for the priest's plane ticket.

Elisea said that she had been financing the businesses of Liwliwa and Lyndia and previously assigned Liwliwa to manage the production of the couple's farmlands until the couple decided to cut the benefits given to the cousins when the Macalmas decided to stay longer in the country.

"(Fr. Florante). Had been so nice to us that he would even be ready to do dirty works like nursing our piglets. We considered him very special, welcomed him to our home and treated him as a (family member)," Elisea said. (PIA) [top]

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