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As Odicta bodies brought home, Bato says drug trade not dead

THE COFFINS bearing the bodies of Melvin and Meriam Odicta are displayed at the couple’s house in Barangay Malipayon, Iloilo City. NESTOR P. BURGOS/INQUIRER VISAYAS

THE COFFINS bearing the bodies of Melvin and Meriam Odicta are displayed at the couple’s house in Barangay Malipayon, Iloilo City. NESTOR P. BURGOS/INQUIRER VISAYAS

ILOILO CITY—Wails of grief and shouts of anger filled the Odictas’ compound, which occupies an entire block that straddles two villages, as two funeral cars, one black and the other white, entered its driveway around 1:53 p.m. on Wednesday.

The crying grew louder as a shiny gold-colored coffin was pulled out of the white funeral car, followed by another coffin in silver from the black vehicle.

The bodies of Melvin Odicta and wife, Meriam, tagged as drug lords by President Duterte, had been brought home two days after an unidentified assailant gunned them down minutes after they disembarked from a vessel at the Caticlan port in Malay town in Aklan province.

Their deaths, however, are not the end for the drug trade in Iloilo province, according to Director General Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa, Philippine National Police chief.

Dela Rosa said members of another drug syndicate, the Prevendido Group, are still active in the province, although they are on the run. He said he had ordered a hunt for them.

In a press conference in Cotabato City also on Wednesday, Dela Rosa said residents of Iloilo would soon feel the impact of the Odictas’ deaths—a drop in crime rate in the province.

Dela Rosa, however, insisted that the killings of the Odictas were not the work of police. “There’s an investigation. The truth will come out,” he said.

The coffins that bore the bodies—gold for Meriam and silver for Melvin—were placed near each other a few meters from the back gate of the Odicta compound that straddles the villages of Tanza Esperanza and Malipayon.

Meriam, 52, was dressed in a white dress with floral prints in red, green and blue, while Melvin, 56, was in a black suit with blue tie.

Many members of the Odicta family and their long-time workers were inconsolable as the coffins were opened for viewing.

At the slightly open gate, hundreds of residents and employees of the couple in their various businesses waited to be allowed to come in, surging to the two coffins when they were let in.

Some 50 meters away, police had set up a checkpoint on a road leading to the compound.

Amid lingering questions on how the couple were killed and who ordered it, the families of Melvin and Meriam issued an appeal.

“We are not interested in filing any cases or to press for an investigation. We want peace for the sake of their children and loved ones left behind,” said Noel Odicta, brother of Melvin and village chief of Tanza Esperanza.

“The past is past. If they have done something wrong, we apologize. They are already dead,” Noel said, addressing himself to Mr. Duterte and Dela Rosa.

The PNP and Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency have tagged Melvin as alias “Dragon,” head of one of two main illegal drugs groups operating in Iloilo and other parts of Western Visayas.

The couple had denied the allegations and insisted that they were operators and owners of legitimate businesses.

The shooting of the Odictas was reenacted at the Caticlan port by police. SPO1 Nida Gregas, spokesperson of the Special Investigation Task Group Odicta, said two policemen were subjected to paraffin tests and their guns submitted to ballistics tests.

Relatives of the couple said they would focus now on the couple’s businesses. With a report from Cynthia Balana in Manila

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