GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 05 March) – A policeman was killed while two others were wounded in an ambush Friday morning along the national highway in Tupi town, South Cotabato province.
Col. Jemuel Siason, South Cotabato police director, said the policemen were aboard a private car and proceeding to this city when they were waylaid by unidentified armed men carrying automatic rifles around 6 a.m. at a portion of Purok 15B, Barangay Polonuling.
He said the vehicle’s driver, identified as Staff Sgt. Renante Espero, died on the spot due to multiple gunshot wounds while his companions, identified as Staff Sgts. Rey Jerome Silvederio and Jorex Velasco, were hit in the hand and legs.
Silvederio and Velasco were brought to the Dr. Arturo P. Pingoy Medical Center in Koronadal City and already declared out of danger by attending doctors.
Siason said the victims, who were wearing their athletic uniforms, came from Koronadal City and were on their way to the Police Regional Office-12 headquarters in Barangay Tambler here when they were attacked.
As they were passing the vicinity of Purok 15B, Barangay Polonuling, an undetermined number of gunmen reportedly opened fire at them using M16 Armalite rifles.
The attackers then hastily left the scene aboard a silver Toyota Fortuner that was last seen heading towards the direction of nearby Polomolok town.
Siason said the victims were former members of the drug enforcement unit of the Koronadal City police station and temporarily assigned at the regional police holding and accounting unit here due to their pending administrative cases.
He said the policemen were facing complaints related to the conduct of their previous anti-illegal drug operations.
The police official said the pursuit operations are ongoing against the assailants in coordination with various police units.
He said investigators are currently gathering statements from witnesses and other evidences that could help establish the identities of the gunmen and the possible motive of the attack.
“We’re considering all angles, including the possible involvement of local terrorist elements,” he said.
Siason was referring to the Islamic State-inspired Dawlah Islamiya-Socsargen Katiba, which was tagged as behind an ambush in Barangay Koronadal Proper, Polomolok town in April last year that resulted in the death of two policemen.
He said they received intelligence reports that the group had been planning to conduct retaliatory attacks against “uniformed personnel” in the area.
Police units in the province are already on high alert and have intensified their security operations due to the threat. (MindaNews)