CEBU, Philippines — Four alleged drug suspects from Talisay City, including two remnants of the group of slain suspected drug lord Jeffrey “Jaguar” Diaz who yielded more than P8 million in shabu, became the latest casualties in the relentless war against the drug menace.
The region’s top police officials were, meanwhile, quick to justify the legitimacy of the operations amid reports that the incidents would be reported to the Commission on Human Rights (CHR).
Talisay City police chief Supt. Marlu Conag identified the first two fatalities as Rodel Nacario and Kevin Baguio, both of legal age, who were killed after allegedly trying to engage authorities in a shootout during a buy-bust operation dawn Tuesday in Barangay Tabunok.
Baguio, the subject of the operation, allegedly sensed he was transacting with a police decoy so he pulled out a gun and fired at the latter, who was in turn quick to take cover and retaliate.
The two were hit in the different parts of their bodies, resulting to their instantaneous deaths.
Conag told reporters that both suspects were linked to other drug personalities who were killed in police operations last month.
He also revealed they received information that the suspects, at one time, had boasted about killing a police officer soon.
Police recovered .38 and .357 revolver with live bullets and illegal drugs with an undetermined value at the crime scene.
A few hours later, the Provincial Intelligence Branch (PIB) of Cebu Provincial Police Office (CPPO) also conducted another operation in Sitio Manguilamon, Barangay Jaclupan that led to the deaths of Alvarez brothers Rodrigo and Noel.
Senior Insp. Alejandro Batobalonos, chief of PIB, said the Alvarez brothers originally came from Barangay Duljo-Fatima in Cebu City and were remnants of Jaguar’s group.
Batobalonos said the two bought property in Jaclupan and stayed there for their illegal business, using a piggery as a front.
During the operation, both suspects allegedly fired at the police, taking cover from inside their house. However, they were hit in the ensuing exchange of gunfire and were declared dead on arrival at the hospital.
Authorities recovered 1.2 kilos of illegal drugs worth P8.1 million from the house, which the suspects allegedly tried to bury. Also recovered were two .45 caliber of firearm allegedly owned by the suspects.
Five alleged cohorts of the Alvarez brothers were also arrested: Randyl Añabeza, 27; Johnrey Vitor; Jackson Ogong; Christopher Infiesto; Neilrenz Francisco; and Wilfredo Narciso.
At the Police Regional Office in Central Visayas, PRO-7 Director Chief Supt. Debold Sinas maintained that the four deaths were not results of “operational failure” but rather of successful intelligence mining and surveillance.
He said that it will only be considered an operational failure if cops were gunned down during the exchange of fire despite their firepower and logistical advantage. Operational failure, he added, only happens when police are too confident and do not properly prepare.
“Dili na failure sa amo assessment. Ang failure is if naa mamatay nga pulis and madamay nga sibilyan. Buot pasabot, wala naplano. Buot pasabot, maayo ang intelligence project (It was not a failure. It will only be if a policeman or a civilian died. It means the operation was not planned. But in this case, intelligence reporting was good),” Sinas said.
Sinas made the remarks following statements from the CHR that every death in an anti-drug operation can be considered as an operational failure.
Sinas said PRO-7 is open to any form of investigation and he even encouraged CHR investigators to visit Talisay, although cautioning them to inform the police ahead for security purposes.
He said that drug personalities in Talisay City are more aggressive than those in Cebu City.
“Lahi gyud ang attitude (sa mga drug suspects) sa Talisay City. Armado and prepared gyud sila. Sa Cebu City dili mosukol,” he said, adding that drug personalities in Talisay have a mentality that they are untouchable.
Sinas, however, said that his personnel have been prepared to work better to dent the drug operations in Talisay City, which was once tagged by no less than President Duterte as among the drug-infested areas in Cebu.
“Ayuhon nato og operate kay wala’y so-called untouchable kay if mahadlok ta, kinsa ang moadto (No one is untouchable in the drug war. We, the police, will operate accordingly, because if we won’t go there, who else would?),” he said.
For his part, Cebu Provincial Police Office Director Senior Supt. Manuel Abrugena echoed Sinas statements that the operations were a product of intensive monitoring.
He said that it has only been three months since the Alvarez brothers have operated in the area using a piggery as a front. The two could have distributed illegal drugs in Talisay City, as well as in nearby provinces and in Cebu City.
Abrugena said the brothers sourced their illegal drugs supply from Manila, and that the shabu seized from them yesterday could be part of the missing drug shipment in magnetic lifters that went past Customs security earlier this year.
“Yellowish pa rin ang nakuha, (that’s why) there is a possibility na yun ay from magnetic lifters, and may comparison na gagawin,” he said.
In Cebu City, three people were arrested in separate buy-bust operations in Barangays Suba and Mambaling on Monday afternoon.
The Drug Enforcement Unit (DEU) of Mambaling police led by Chief Inspector Randy Caballes first conducted an operation on Belgium Street in Suba that led to the arrest of Jonathan Benting, 41, a resident of the area.
Caballes said the operation was hatched after the police received information about Benting’s alleged illegal activities from another drug suspect who was arrested about a week ago.
The team then subjected Benting for surveillance for a week and confirmed his shady deals.
Confiscated from him was a red pouch which contained eight medium packs and 17 small sachets of illegal drugs weighing 41.08 grams and worth P279 344. Also retrieved was P600 in cash believed to be proceeds from the illegal drug sale.
That same day, two suspects Arnold Garces and Roland Conde, residents of Sitio Puntod, Barangay Mambaling, were also arrested in a drug sting that yielded a yellow coin purse containing 24 small sachets and a medium pack of illegal drugs worth P43,792. — with Marjory D. Enriquez, USJ-R Intern/JMD (FREEMAN)