GENERAL SANTOS CITY – A policeman was killed while two others were wounded in an ambush Friday on the national highway in Tupi, South Cotabato.
Police Col. Jemuel Siason, South Cotabato police director, said the policemen were aboard a private vehicle and proceeding to this city when they were waylaid by unidentified armed men carrying automatic rifles at around 6 a.m. in Purok 15-B, Barangay Polonuling.
He said the vehicle’s driver, Police Staff Sgt. Renante Espero, died on-the-spot due to multiple bullet wounds while his companions, Police Staff Sgts. Rey Jerome Silvederio and Jorex Velasco, were hit on 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 when they were attacked.
As they were passing the vicinity of Purok 15B, Barangay Polonuling, an undetermined number of suspects reportedly opened fire at them using M16 Armalite rifles.
The suspects then hastily left the scene aboard a silver Toyota Fortuner that was last seen heading toward the direction of Polomolok.
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 due to their pending administrative cases. He said the policemen were facing complaints related to their previous anti-illegal drug operations.
The police official said the pursuit operations are ongoing against the suspects in coordination with various police units.
“We’re considering all angles, including the possible involvement of local terrorist elements,” he said in a radio interview. Siason was referring to the Islamic State-inspired Dawlah Islamiya-Socsargen Katiba, which was tagged as behind an ambush in Barangay Koronadal Proper, Polomolok last year that resulted in the killing 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, he said.