By Aaron Recuenco
Gen. Oscar Albayalde, chief of the Philippine National Police (PNP), has ordered a massive manhunt against the gunmen and all those involved in the ambush of former Pangasinan governor Amado Espino Jr. in San Carlos City on Wednesday afternoon.
“The Philippine National Police strongly condemns the attack. I have already directed the Police Regional Office 1 to immediately launch manhunt operations to arrest the suspects, expedite the investigation and file criminal charges to give justice to the victims,” said Albayalde.
Espino, who also served as congressman for the 5th district of Pangasinan, was hit when armed men strafed his car with bullets but is now on stable condition, said Brig. Gen. Joel Orduna, director of the Ilocos regional police.
Aside from Espino, also wounded during the gun attack were his security aides Agapito Quizon, Kervin Marbori, Staff Sergeant Jayon Masli and Anthony Columbino.
Police Staff Sergeant Richard Esguerra died on the spot due to multiple bulletwounds he suffered.
Orduna said Espino was on board a Toyota Land Cruiser driven by Quizon when heavily-armed men started shooting at the vehicle in a road intersection in Barangay Magtaking in San Carlos City. The gunmen also sprayed bullets on the back-up vehicle of Espino where Columbino and Esguerra were boarding.
After the attack, the gunmen boarded a red Hyundai Elantra hatchback and a metallic blue Ford Everest and sped off.
The official said the red Hyundai hatchback was recovered in Barangay Cobol in San Carlos City while the Ford Everest was recovered in Barangay Pasima in Malasiqui town.
“We recovered several high-powered firearms in the vehicles. Our operatives are processing the recovered guns and the vehicles for pieces of evidence,” said Police Col. Redrico Maranan, provincial director of Pangasinan Police.
Maranan said Espino appeared to have come from his house and possibly on his way to attend an event or meet someone when the attack occurred.
It was not immediately clear if there was a firefight between the attackers and Espino’s security escorts since the security aides are still under medical treatment while some witnesses gave conflicting statements.
Maranan said they immediately secured all the Closed Circuit Television (CCTVs) in the ambush site and the escape routes of the gunmen, saying it is crucial in the identification of the suspects.
All the CCTV recordings are now being processed.
Maranan explained that the CCTV footages are also important in identifying the vehicles which probably captured footages of the attack and the gunmen via their dashcams.
Police investigators were careful in giving details, especially on the identification of the gunmen and the discussion of the possible motive of the attack.
In 2016, Espino, then 5th District Representative of Pangasinan, was included in the list of politicians allegedly involved in illegal drugs trade.
But this was clarified later by President Duterte himself who apologized to Espino for the erroneous inclusion of his name in the so-called narco-politician list.
Espino is a member of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) Class 1972. He retired from the PNP in 2000 and later entered local politics.