• Drug ‘vigilantes’ claim more lives

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    So-called vigilante killings claimed at least nine more drug suspects in separate incidents in Olongapo City, Caga­yan and the Bicol Region over the weekend.

    All victims were found with notes written in Filipino: “I’m a collector and pusher of shabu,” “I am a pusher” and “Don’t emulate pushers-Bicol vigilantes.”

    On Monday, Arthur Mangohig, 43, of Barangay Manggahan, Subic, Zambales, was found near a lighthouse in Barangay Kalaklan in Olongapo City with three gunshot wounds. His feet and head were wrapped in plastic and tied with wire.

    A woman who claimed to be his daughter arrived at the crime scene and identified him. She said four bonnet-wearing men came to their house on Sunday night and abducted her father who was selling food packs at the Hanjin transport terminal in Barangay Manggahan, Subic.

    Authorities believed he was killed in another place and his body was dumped in the area.

    Another suspected drug pusher, Rommel Rodaste Palma, was shot dead by policemen during a buy-bust in Barangay Banicain.

    Report said Palma got suspicious that he was dealing with police authorities and engaged the poseur buyer that resulted in a shootout.

    Recovered from him were sachets of shabu and drug paraphernalia, a knife, a gun and other items.

    The third victim, Rodolfo Santillan, was reportedly a known drug pusher in Barangay New Cabalan.

    Santillan was being served a warrant of arrest for illegal drugs in his house in Sitio Botolan, Iram, when he engaged policemen from Police Station 4 in a gunfight on Saturday.

    Sachets of shabu and illegal drug paraphernalia, a caliber .38 revolver and three 9mm live ammunition were recovered from him.

    The Olongapo City acting chief of police, Senior Supt. Jerry Tait Sumbad, downplayed fear of vigilantism in the city and told The Manila Times that the Philippine National Police does not know of the existence of a vigilante group or its involvement in drug-related killings or summary execution in the city.

    “It’s negative as far as I know,” Sumbad said.

    When asked if he was aware of such group existing in nearby towns, he replied that he does not know if there are vigilantes in other areas.

    A number of deaths have taken place in Olongapo and nearby towns of Zambales, particularly in Subic and Castillejos, where bodies were dumped in different places with markings that appear to be the work of vigilantes.

    Similarly, vigilante killings of alleged drug violators in Metro Manila and neighboring provinces have reached Bicol Region.

    The Naga City (Camarines Sur) police spokesman, Senior Police Office 2 Tobias Bongon, confirmed the extrajudicial deaths after three bodies were found with placards written in Filipino: “Don’t emulate pushers-Bicol vigilantes.”

    Bongon identified the first victim as Alan Castro, 38, who was shot dead by unidentified assailants riding a motorcycle in Barangay San Felipe.

    The second happened in Barangay Pacol where the body of Michael Reyes, 39, was found with gunshot wounds and his face wrapped with a masking tape. The placard, apparently left by the killer said he was a hold-up man.

    The third victim was Ariel Bucacao, 29, whose body bore stab wounds and dumped at the entrance of Saint James Subdivision in Barangay Concepcion Grande.

    Since July 1 when “Oplan Tokhang” was implemented, the police regional director, Chief Supt. Melvin Buenafe, said the number of drug suspect killed, pushers arrested and surrenderers multiplied fast.

    The Bicol Region has been in the news for having a serious problem in drugs since the early 2000.

    Police records showed Camarines Sur and Albay topped the lists of drug violators arrested and surrenderers, followed by the provinces of Masbate, Sorsogon, Camarines Norte and Catanduanes. The two cities that topped the lists of having drug violators are Naga City and Legazpi (Albay).

    Buenafe said they are eyeing at least 100,000 drug suspects to surrender within three months.

    Naga City Mayor John Bongat said he does not condone vigilante killings but admitted it is a big deterrent against criminality.

    Meanwhile, in the province of Cagayan, three bodies were recovered by the police in a cemetery in Barangay Tapel in Gonzaga town.

    The victims were suspected to be involved in illegal drugs.

    Police Senior Insp. Edgar Manuel, Gonzaga chief of police, identified the victims as Jovit Baclig, Bonito Sebastian Jr., and Obet Valderama, all residents of the town.

    Manuel said Valderama is No.8 on the drugs watchlist of Gonzaga police as pusher, while Baclig and Sebastian were listed as drug users.

    Police also recovered a caliber .45 pistol from the crime scene and two sachets of shabu from Valderama.

    Intelligence gathered by police revealed that the three duped the supplier of the drugs who allegedly retaliated by killing them.

    WITH LEANDER C. DOMINGO

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