By Alex P. Vidal
NEW YORK CITY -- Who ordered the gruesome killings of suspected drug lord Melvin "Boyet" Odicta, Sr. and wife Meriam?
"Everyone has been pointing to Dragon's (Boyet Odicta's other name) alleged cohorts or protectors as the culprits. The group did not do it. Killing the goose that lays the golden egg is not only illogical, but also suicidal on the part of the group," argued a reliable source who wanted to be called only as "Strawberry."
Strawberry, who now lives in New Jersey, was a former "close friend" of the slain Odicta when the latter was still allegedly "locked in a bitter turf war" in Brgy. Tanza-Esperanza, Iloilo City Proper in the early 90's with Levi Zerrudo, inmate in the Bureau of Jail and Management Penology (BJMP) in Ungka, Jaro, Iloilo City.
Zerrudo, also known as "Bitas", was reportedly Odicta's main rival in distribution of illegal drugs in the area.
They were both small fries at that time, Strawberry said.
"I checked with the group and they swore they had no knowledge about the hit," Strawberry disclosed.
He added: "They would have everything to lose and nothing to gain if they eliminated Dragon. Granting that Dragon and Meriam were able to give the list of their alleged protectors to DILG (Department of Interior and Local Government) Secretary (Ismael) Sueno, killing the couple won't change anything."
Odicta's lawyer Raymund Fortun denied that the couple submitted a list of their protectors or "illegal drug trade matrix" to Sueno during their meeting two days before the murders.
If the alleged protectors wanted to silence Odicta and his wife, they would have ordered their killing before they went to the DILG, Strawberry pointed out.
He said the murders of the Odicta couple "bore the signatures of highly-organized assassins which no ordinary group or organization can command, maintain and sustain."
Strawberry said "he was very suspicious with the reactions and expressions" of both Philippines National Police (PNP) chief, Director Ronald "Bato" Dela Rosa and President Rodrigo Duterte himself after news of the couple's killings spread all over the country.
Strawberry said the assassins could have followed the couple's movement even before they left for Batangas port to take a ro-ro ship to Caticlan, Aklan where they were peppered with bullets while walking in the port area at around 1:30 a.m. on August 29.
They suffered fatal gunshot wounds and pronounced dead on arrival in a hospital in Malay, Aklan
"The signs were not good starting when they were stopped in a police checkpoint in Batangas, where three of their companions have been arrested (after several unlicensed guns were found inside their vehicle) while Dragon and Meriam were allowed to board the ship," he stressed.
Strawberry also clarified that "Meriam's former husband was Bondying Porras, not Tikboy Porras."
Tikboy Porras, murdered in a beach resort in Calumpang, Iloilo City in the late 80's, was known as "Boy Gold". Tikboy Porras was a notorious holdupman and hired killer, not drug pusher, Strawberry corrected.
He was reportedly murdered by his former cohorts.
Bondying Porras was shot dead by SP01 Moloy Vasquez of the Molo PNP Station when he ran amuck in Brgy. Tanza-Esperanza.
"Bondying Porras was engaged in selling of illegal drugs and his wife Meriam knew about his activities," Strawberry explained. "Meriam and Boyet Odicta alyas Dragon fell in love with each other and decided to live together after Porras' death."
Meriam met Dragon after his release from the New Bilibid Prison.
They reportedly collaborated "and used Bondying Porras' sources and connections in illegal drugs trade."
Competitions were still tight among local suppliers of illegal drugs. In the Zamora waterfront area, some of the alleged "notorious" pushers then were Wendel and Tiny Garcia, Alison Benid, and White Deneros.
A certain "Tongtong" reportedly controlled the Jaro-CPU area, "but the Zalbaloza brothers were running the show," the informant further said.
La Paz district area was then reportedly controlled by "Mommy Fe", "Bulani", "Italyano", "Umok", and "Mike."
"Bulani", nephew of the late alleged gambling capitalist Nilo Soliva, was the first to fall in a renewed anti-drugs campaign initiated by then Metrodistrict Command chief, Col. Vicente Neptuno, who used K--9 dogs to track down illegal substances in raids.
"The playing field was even and Boyet Odicta was among the ordinary players. There were no drug lords then," Strawberry disclosed.
"The most prominent name in illegal drugs at that time was Boysi Maloto of Molo district. He was connected to the late former Pototan Vice Mayor Pito Parcon. Maloto was killed by anti-narcotics operatives led by Col. Arada in a raid in his hideout in Molo," Strawberry added.
"When Maloto fell, the Odicta couple moved in. They started to gain the respect and trust of big time shabu suppliers in the Bilibid because Boyet Odicta did not use drugs and was only interested in business together with Meriam," he said.
Strawberry further revealed: "The names of Prevendido brothers emerged in Brgy. Bakhaw, Mandurriao and their alleged protector was a high-ranking police general from New Lucena, Iloilo."
When serious competitions for distribution in the city and province started in mid-90's, violence started to escalate and Odicta reportedly emerged with upper hand because he utilized ex-convicts from the BJMP and New Bilibid Prison to neutralize his rivals and murder those who stood on their way.
"Odicta finally gained control of illegal drugs business in Western Visayas when his rivals started to fall in police raids one after another, and when suppliers in the Bilibid gave him their full trust and confidence. With Meriam's built-in tentacles inherited from Bondying Porras, they became formidable," Strawberry concluded. "Odicta solidified his hold of illegal drugs trade when he perfected the protection racket scheme by including in his alleged payola corrupt members of the PNP, government, media, and judiciary."