GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 27 Sept) – Three persons, including the town deputy chief of police, were killed while five others were wounded after unidentified suspects opened fire using automatic rifles at a restaurant in Polomolok, South Cotabato late Tuesday night.
Chief Insp. Aldrin Gonzales, chief of the Polomolok municipal police station, said the town’s deputy police chief, Sr. Insp. Hernan Gabat, and his two companions have just arrived at the Mang Ephoy Lechon House along the national highway in Purok Pag-asa of Barangay Magsaysay around 11:50 p.m. when two suspects suddenly fired at their direction.
He said the police officer came to the restaurant along with barangay councilor Lemuel Cariaga and Rio Salig Sr. of the Bureau of Fire Protection to have a late dinner and conduct intelligence monitoring.
But while they were looking for a table, Gonzales said “sudden bursts of gunfire” came towards the three officials’ direction and hit Gabat, his companion Salig and several other customers.
Cariaga was able to duck and was unharmed, the police chief said.
Gonzales said the 48-year-old Gabat, who was hit on the left side of his body, was declared dead upon arrival at the Howard Hubbard Memorial Hospital in Polomolok.
Salig and a customer identified as Karl Plomillo sustained gunshot wounds on the body and died while being treated at the Polomolok Municipal Hospital and the Howard Hubbard Memorial Hospital, respectively.
The wounded customers were identified as Edgar Luzon, 26; Riza Diamante, 36; Jade Silva, 28; Ralyn Pitogo, 18; and Garizalde Villacora, 45.
Luzon and Silva, who sustained gunshot wounds on the head, were brought to a hospital here and are now in critical condition.
Pitogo was rushed to the South Cotabato Provincial Hospital in Koronadal City, while Villacora was treated for slight wounds on the arm at the Polomolok Municipal Hospital and was already discharged.
Citing accounts from witnesses, Gonzales said the suspects were positioned at a dark portion of the nearby PMCO road during the shooting.
He said the two suspects were both armed with M-16 Armalite rifles.
After emptying their magazines, the suspects fled aboard a motorcycle towards the direction of PMCO Village in Barangay Magsaysay, Gonzales said.
Personnel from the Police Regional Office-12’s regional crime laboratory recovered at the scene some 30 shells of caliber 5.56mm bullets, three metal fragments and one fired slug, he said.
Gonzales said the circumstances of the incident showed that it was planned and Gabat was the main target.
“He was clearly followed by the suspects and they knew the pattern of his movements,” he said.
The police official said they are still investigating the possible suspects and whether they are affiliated to any group.
But he said they are looking at the attack as possibly “work-related” as Gabat was also the police station’s intelligence officer.
He said Gabat, who previously served as the station’s officer-in-charge, had led several major operations that led to the arrest of a number of suspects.
The slain police official was also at the forefront of the police station’s campaign against illegal drugs in the area.
“He is a big loss to us. We will exert all efforts to resolve this case and at the same continue to do our jobs,” Gonzales said. (MindaNews)