GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 28 Nov) – Maritime police clashed with smugglers dawn on Thursday in a shootout at sea off a coastal village here, resulting in the disappearance of a police officer and the wounding of three others when their rubber boat capsized.
Lt. Col. Jimeper Gamido, deputy chief of the Regional Maritime Unit (RMU)-12, said elements from the 1201st Maritime Police Station launched patrol operations aboard a rubber boat upon hearing reports of inbound smuggled cigarettes from Indonesia.
The patrolling policemen, headed by Master Sgt. Jose Albert Dinio, were near Purok Kulasi in Barangay Labangal around 4 a.m. when fired upon by smugglers, Gamido said.
Dinio’s group traded fire, but their rubber boat was reportedly hit and eventually capsized.
Master Sgt. Edilberto Bernardino, who was wounded in the encounter, went missing after the incident.
Three policemen were wounded in the firefight: Staff Sgts. Rodrigo Salmon, Roger Agodania and Edwin Tubig Jr.
Gamido said the three policemen are currently undergoing treatment at the Mindanao Medical Center here.
He said teams from the RMU-12, Philippine Coastguard, Philippine Navy and other support units were immediately dispatched to conduct search and rescue operations for the missing policeman.
“The search [for Bernardino] and the hot pursuit operations against the suspects are still ongoing,” Gamido said.
Col. Aden Lagradante, city police director, said they deployed teams near the site to assist the search operations and the manhunt against the suspects.
A joint team from the City Mobile Force Company and the RMU-12 confiscated 663 reams of smuggled cigarettes from Indonesia near the encounter site. (MindaNews)