By HERBIE GOMEZ, Editor in chief, NITZ ARANCON
and JOEY NACALABAN, Correspondents .
COUNCILOR Teodulfo Lao Jr. has called on the city council’s committee on police to examine the striking similarities in the local police’s accounts on the killings that took place during anti-narcotics operations in the city.
Lao urged Councilor Romeo Calizo to call for a committee meeting so the panel could start an official inquiry into the deaths of people whom the police tagged as drug suspects.
The Duterte administration’s bloody “war on drugs” has so far claimed the lives of over a dozen people, mostly suspected of being drug peddlers, in the city alone. Since January, at least two men were shot and killed here for allegedly fighting it out with police officers doing undercover work.
Lao said he found the police accounts quite disturbing given the striking similarities of details, and nearly identical circumstances surrounding the deaths.
Lt. Col. Surki Sereñas, Camp Alagar spokesman, told the Gold Star Daily that he himself brought the matter to the attention of other officials in the Police Regional Office.
But Sereñas said the detailed police reports would show differences when carefully examined.
Sereñas said Camp Alagar’s internal affairs service always subjects police officers involved in drug busts that result in deaths, to investigation. As a matter of procedure, he said, police officers who have killed drug suspects are automatically slapped with administrative charges, and it is up to them to justify their use of force.
The Gold Star Daily checked on some of the police accounts on the drug bust-related deaths in the city and found these similarities:
• the suspects were allegedly armed with caliber. 38 revolvers, and even grenades at times;
• the undercover agents always blew their cover in the middle of the transactions;
• the suspects had the ability to “sense” undercover operations in the middle or, at times, immediately after the transactions, and they suddenly became hostile;
• the suspects were fast drawers but they just couldn’t hit their targets even at close range;
• nearly always, the only money they had was P500;
• the suspects had a few sachets of suspected shabu with them; and
• there is no way to validate the police claims because the police accounts were uncorroborated by witnesses.
Since January, two men — Sayjohn Gadiane of Puntod and Roger Fernandez Sersa of Barangay Lapasan — were shot and killed by police officers on separate occasions in the city. Like the others before them, details and the circumstances surrounding their deaths were similar.
Gadiane, a suspected drug peddler, was shot to the chest thrice during a police buy-and-bust operation in Bulua in the evening of Jan. 8.
Police alleged that Gadiane shot at a shabu poseur-buyer with a caliber .38 revolver but missed, and another officer returned fire and killed the suspect with at least three gunshots to the chest.
Police claimed the suspect had 11 sachets of suspected shabu, and a P500 bill that was used in the entrapment.
The police account on Gadiane is similar to the narrative on the death of another suspected drug peddler identified as 54-year-old Roger Fernandez Sersa on 11th and 15th Sts., Nazareth, in Feb. 22.
Capt. Teodoro de Oro, Macasandig police chief, said Fernandez Sersa a.k.a. Kwek-kwek of Sto. Niño, Barangay Lapasan, shot at the police with a caliber .38 revolver after he realized that it was a drug bust.
“Mibunot siya sa iyang armas ug namusil ikausa. Maayo nalang nakalikay atong pulis, nakatago sa kahoy. Mao tong gibalosan siya ug naigo,” said de Oro, adding that the suspect even attempted to explode a grenade.
The suspect allegedly had a sachet of suspected shabu.
Capt. Paul John Ragmac of the police’s Scene of the Crime Operatives, said Fernandez Sersa was shot five times to the chest and lower parts of the body.
Not all drug busts carried out by members of the Cagayan de Oro City Police Office (Cocpo) result in deaths though.
On Friday night, officers from the City Drug Enforcement Unit arrested suspected drug peddler Louie Chua near Pabayo and Abejuela Sts..
Maj. Excyllo Alcantara, CDEU chief, said the 33-year-old Chua a.k.a. Baste was caught with five sachets of suspected shabu estimated to be worth P4 thousand, a grenade, and P500.
Alcantara said Chua would be charged with selling illegal drugs and illegal possession of an explosive today.
Meanwhile, similar police accounts are also being made elsewhere like in neighboring Tagoloan town in Misamis Oriental where authorities shot and killed two suspected drug peddlers on Friday night.
Capt. Princess Joy Velarde, Misamis Oriental police spokesperson, identified the dead suspects as Albert Bincal and John Mark Maglacion of Barangay Casinglot in Tagoloan town.
Velarde said police shot and killed Bincal after the suspect fired shots at the officers when he realized that he was selling to an undercover agent.
The other suspect, Maglacion, ran off but tried to explode a grenade, prompting the officers to shoot him, she said.
Velarde said the police rushed the suspects to the St. Paul Hospital in Tagoloan where they were declared dead on arrival.
Again, police claimed the dead men had a caliber .38 revolver, a grenade, P500, and a sachet of suspected shabu.
Velarde also linked the two dead men to incidents of robbery carried out by motorcycle-riding criminals. The police allegation has not been corroborated.