I’M referring to the National Capital Region Police Office headed by Major General Debold Sinas and the Police Regional Office 13 headed by Brigadier Gen. Joyet Esquivel for proving that the long arm of the law will really catch up with even the country’s most powerful and influential fugitives.
Sinas’s men on Thursday captured former Dinagat Islands Representative Ruben B. Ecleo Jr., the country’s most wanted man who has been in hiding for the past nine years during a 6-month operation which ended up in San Fernando City in Pampanga where they arrested the fugitive without having to fire a single shot.
NCRPO officers arrested the 60-year old Ecleo, the subject of a P2 million government bounty and his driver while they were on their way to a local golf range. The so-called ‘Divine Master’ of the Philippine Benevolent Missionaries Association was as meek as a lamb when surrounded by the police, a far cry from his tough and defiant image in June 2013 when his armed followers clashed with security forces in Dinagat Island leaving 21 of the cultists and one policemen dead.
On the other hand, PRO13 operatives under Esquivel, a former Quezon City Police District director captured elusive KAPA ministry leader Joel Apolinario and 23 of his supporters following a daring raid in an island in Lingig, Surigao del Sur on Tuesday last week which left two of Apolinario’s armed followers dead following a gunbattle with the raiders.
Recovered during that raid in Surigao del Sur were a cache of high-powered weapons including 30 pieces of M-16 automatic rifles, two M-4 rifles, one Garand rifle, three 60 cal. Machine guns, one cal. 50 Sniper rifle, three cal. .22 rifles, one Carbine automatic rifle, one 12-gauge shotgun, two RPGs, five cal. .45 semi-automatic pistols and hundreds of rounds of assorted live ammunition.
Credit should go to Sinas and his men from the Police Regional Office 7 in Central Visayas which he previously headed. It turned out that Sinas ordered his men to pursue leads provided to them by informants in Cebu City leading them to the whereabouts of Ecleo who is wanted for murdering his wife and for a graft case which prompted the Sandiganbayan to order him jailed for 30 years.
On the other hand, Esquivel saw to it that they will follow-up leads regarding the whereabouts of Apolinario in Caraga region. Their patience paid off when they finally located the suspect and his bodyguards in his exclusive property in Lingig where he was able to stockpile weapons and ammunition.
It should be noted that both Ecleo and Apolinario used religion to attract devout followers and amass huge wealth which allowed them to buy mansions, private islands and other things that only the ‘rich and the famous’ can have. Both also went into hiding for years and managed to escape arrest with the help of their supporters.
PNP chief, General Archie Gamboa must be smiling from ear to ear for having achieved what other five previous PNP chiefs before him failed to do : track down Ecleo. This is a proof that a good solid intelligence plus a team of dedicated officers given sufficient logistical and financial needs will achieve the best results, whether they are in capturing most wanted criminals and terrorists or bringing down the biggest drug syndicates and making record drug hauls in just nine months.
Gen. Gamboa was also right when he said that the arrest of both Ecleo and Apolinario should send a clear and chilling message to other fugitives in the country. “You can run but you cannot hide from the PNP. We will put you behind bars.” Well said General. The next best thing the PNP can do is to identify and file charges against the persons who protected the two while in hiding, even giving them the opportunity to stock high-powered guns.
JUSTICE FOR SEC. AÑO’S SLAIN MISTAH
I join calls for justice for murdered Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office board secretary Wesley Barayuga, a retired police general who happened to be a lawyer-mistah from Philippine Military Academy Class 1983 of Department of Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo M. Año in Mandaluyong City last Thursday afternoon.
I have known Barayuga when he was still assigned at Camp Crame. A lawyer, the PMA Class 1983 member used to be a deputy director of the PNP Directorate for Research and Development before he retired from the police force.
On Thursday, an assassin’s bullets killed the 62-year old Barayuga shortly after he and his driver Jojo Gunao left the PCSO central office in Mandaluyong City on board a PCSO vehicle: a white Mitsubishi Strada with plate no. SKR-923.
All indications show that the victims were long being tailed by the suspects who attacked them in Calbayog Street near corner Malinao St. in Barangay Highway Hills in Mandaluyong City 3:30 p.m. Thursday.
At the moment, NCRPO investigators are reviewing all CCTV recordings which may give them clues on the identities of the gunman who was armed with a caliber .45 pistol and his cohort. It was also obvious that the killers have already ‘cased’ the victims and knew exactly the time they will leave the PCSO office and even the vehicle they were riding.
I have learned that Barayuga was brought to the PCSO by its chairman Anselmo Pinili, another PMA Class 1983 member and retired police general. He is just among the several PMA Class 1983 members who are now in the PCSO.
Investigators are looking into a number of possible motives behind the killing of Barayuga, a former logistics chief of the Police Regional Office 6 in Western Visayas before he was transferred to Camp Crame. One of the possibilities is that the murder could be ‘work-related.’
Other reports have mentioned the ‘drug angle’ saying Barayuga was once included in the ‘narco-list’ of President Duterte. However, I join his friends and colleagues in their appeal for the media not to demean the memories of the murdered retired police general. In the first place, I don’t think President Duterte, Sec. Año and Pinili would allow his entry into the PCSO if he really has been tainted by drugs.
Barayuga was the 2nd government official killed this week. Last Monday, National Center for Mental Health chief Roland Cortez,61; and his driver Ernesto dela Cruz,46, were gunned down inside the doctor’s car by still unidentified motorcycle-riding gunmen in Tandang Sora, Quezon City. May their souls rest in peace. May they also get the justice they deserve, quick and fast.