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Manhunt for gang members involved in drugs

Four of those killed in the attack were policemen

  • Police gather evidence near the bodies of suspected criminals after a shootout with army and police at a checkImage Credit: AP
  • The bullet-riddled vehicle of suspected criminals on a road inthe town of AtimonImage Credit: AP
Gulf News

Manila: Authorities continued a massive manhunt for half a dozen gang members allegedly involved in illegal drugs, gambling, and kidnapping who escaped police attack that killed 13 others in southern Luzon’s Quezon province last Sunday, authorities said, adding that four of those killed were policemen.

“Those who escaped could be involved in illegal drugs. They were aboard a vehicle with a commemorative plate number of the Philippine National Police (PNP). They could be members of a gang-for-hire to do other criminal activities,” Senior Superintendent Valeriano de Leon, Quezon provincial police director said in a radio interview.

Those who escaped could be part of a drug syndicate in the Bicol region, whose members were killed in Quezon last month, de Leon added.

He referred to two motorcycle-riding gunmen who killed three motorists from Camarines Norte along the Quirino highway in Tagkawayan, Quezon on December 17. Found in the car of the slain motorists were 10 kilos of high-grade “shabu,” or methamphetamine hydrochloride, with an estimated street price of P90 million (Dh7.5 million)..

Meanwhile, among the 13 killed in the 18-minute long shoot-out on Maharlika Highway in Lumutan village, Atimonan, Quezon at 3pm on Sunday were police officer Jeffrey Tarinay Valdez, and Police Superintendent Alfredo Perez Consamino, superintendent of MIMAROPA (Occidental Mindoro, Oriental Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon, and Palawan in southern Luzon and southwestern Philippines), said police head Chief Superintendent James Melad of Calabarzon (composed of Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal, and Quezon provinces in southern Luzon).

Also killed were Police Officer Gruet Alinea Mantuano and Armando Lescano of the Philippine Air Force’s Air Education Training Command, said Melad.

Two men, Leonardo Catapang Marasigan and Staff Sergeant Maximo Manalastas Pelayo were earlier identified as members of the Intelligence Service the Armed Forces of the Philippines (ISFAP), but were found to be carrying fake ISAFP identification cards, said Melad.

Also killed was Jun Lontok, an environmentalist who once worked with current Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala. Lontok was also the leader of LABB, a group that called for the protection of Mount Banahaw in Quezon province during Holy Week, Melad said.

Four other civilians and two drivers of the Montero-type sport utility vehicles were also killed, said Melad.

The identities of those who were killed have proven an old allegation that criminals, military men, policemen, and politicians often collude to undertake criminal activities, analysts said.

Those who were killed in a shoot-out at the second checkpoint in Quezon, had just come from a meeting with fellow gang-members in Camarines Norte, Bicol, southern Luzon. The checkpoints were established because of intelligence reports that they were passing Atimonan, Quezon Province.

“They did not stop on the first check-point, and they were shot at on the second check-point. The third vehicle did not push through and returned probably to Bicol. That’s the target of the manhunt now,” said Melad.

Eight handguns, an M-14 rifle, and an M-16 rifle were seized from the killed suspects, said Melad.

Police Superintendent Hansel Marantan deployed at the second checkpoint was shot in the legs and hand during the shoot-out. He was declared out of danger in a hospital in Lucena City on Monday.

But relatives of the civilians who were killed claimed the incident was a rub-out case, radio reports said,

Last Friday, Rolando Bae, a drug-crazed former village official shot seven people and critically wounded in southern suburban Kawit, Cavite. Responding policemen killed Bae and arrested his assistant who was in charge of reloading Bae’s .45 calibre pistol which he used in the shooting rampage.

On New Year’s Eve, a four-year-old boy was shot and killed by a stray bullet in suburban Mandaluyong. A seven-year-old girl who was also shot on New Year’s Eve in the northern suburban area subsequently died after four days.

These incidents prompted civilian groups to call for a total gun ban, strict regulation on gun ownership, proper licensing of guns, and the return of capital punishment which was banned by Congress in 2006.

In the Philippines, only 1.2 million guns are licensed; up to 600,000 are unlicensed.