Drug dealers turning into widow-makers

I’M referring to armed and defiant drug dealers in the country who have produced many instant young widows and orphans after killing undercover officers in shootouts. This for me is the price police have to pay as they carry out a ‘protracted war’ against drug trafficking and abuse under the Duterte administration.

Any journalist worth their salt knows what happens in a real life buy-bust operation. It’s not like in the movies where the hero always beats up the gangster to the draw no matter what happens. Here, police undercover officers commonly referred to in police reports as ‘poseurs’ literally risk their lives each time they deal with a shabu dealer with a suspicious mind.

Although police have reported the killing of 6,600 armed dug personalities in shootouts and the arrest of 240,000 others as a result of over 153,000 anti-narcotics operations from July 2016 to date, records will show that there were also 50 policemen who have been killed in firefights with armed and defiant drug pushers across the country.

These are the policemen who played their role to the hilt—in civilian clothes, mostly without any body protection and armed only with cunning and their being street-smart when they met their targets and prepared to give the pre-arranged signals to their colleagues once teh deal was consummated. Unfortunately, they were felled by drug dealers’ bullets and their only consolation is that they died literally with their boots on.

I grieve each time a good policeman is killed in the line of duty. I can’t count the number of times I have joined PNP chiefs like my friends, Generals Raul Bacalzo, Jess Verzosa, Nick Bartolome and  my Ninong Art Lomibao in visiting the wake of our hero-cops. And yes, I shed tears  while standing in front of the coffins of those policemen who have been shot dead by NPA rebels, the Abu Sayyaf, robbers and drug dealers.

Once, I suggested that the PNP Hymn be sung during the wake of policemen who have been killed in the line of duty. Apart from the usual posthumous medal and other recognitions as well as financial packages given to their grieving families, what else can replace the accolades and respect of the entire Filipino nation to our dead cops. The words’ ihandog ang iisang buhay’ in the PNP Hymn truly exemplifies the life and times of those fallen cops, I would say.

Last Saturday, Police Senior Master Sergeant Conrado Cabigao Jr.  became the 50th policeman to be killed during the 3-year old war on drugs launched by the Duterte administration. Cabigao, a 37-year old member of the Rizal Police Provincial Office left behind a wife named Mae and their two children aged 12 and seven.

Cabigao actually was the 2nd Rizal policeman to be killed while going after armed shabu dealers in the province this year. Last April 23, Patrolman Ariel Dapyawen of the Antipolo City Police Station was shot dead in a buy-bust operation which turned deadly in the city. A colleague of Dapyawen, Staff Sgt. Joseph Monjardin was lucky to survive a bullet wound in the stomach.

The only consolation of Dapyawen and his family is that two of his killers, both suspected members of the notorious Lego gun-for-hire and robbery group operating in Rizal province were also killed in the shootout.

Two months after Dapyawen was killed, it was the turn of Cabigao to offer the ultimate sacrifice after he was shot dead by an armed drug dealer in Rodriguez, Rizal last Saturday. Just back from Manila after a 9-day official trip in Germany, PNP chief, General Oscar Albayalde was greeted by the sad  news about the death of the Rizal policeman.

“The PNP mourns the loss of another colleague in the police service who died with his boots on while fulfilling a duty to rid society of the scourge of illegal drugs,” Albayalde told newsmen at Camp Crame on Monday. “ “But before he fell, Sgt Cabigao did what he was trained to do— to die with honor and dignity of having accomplished the mission of neutralizing the two drug personalities who were the targets of the operation,” he added as he ordered that appropriate awards and recognition be bestowed upon the fallen cop for his gallantry in the line of duty.

The PNP chief said that Sgt. Cabigao is the 50th police officer who offered the supreme sacrifice in the PNP’s lonely crusade against illegal drugs since 2016. “Many more police anti-drug crusaders among the 144 wounded PNP personnel who survived armed confrontation in similar violent anti-drug operations are living witnesses to the ruthless violence of drug syndicate gangmen who have taken a life of crime and who will not give up without a fight,” he said.

“Fifty police officers killed is perhaps the painful proof that our detractors need for them to accept the fact that slain drug suspects indeed put up violent resistance to evade the law. Or do they want more dead lawmen to convince them some more,? he asked in obvious reference to critics of the government’s war on drugs.

The PNP chief however emphasized that the paramount objective of any police intervention is to effect the arrest of the offender. “This is precisely the orientation of every police operation that resulted in the arrest of 240,565 drug suspects in 153,276 separate anti-drug operations,” he explained.

My friend, Calabarzon police director, Brigadier General Ted Carranza said that  Cabigao died while undergoing treatment in a local hospital, the fatal injuries he sustained in a shootout with two suspects, one of them identified as Renato Dolorfina and the 2nd identified only as alias ‘Kato.’

It turned out that members of the Rodriguez Municipal Police Station and the Rizal Police Provincial Office’s Provincial Intelligence Branch  conducted the buy-bust operation along Pines Street in Metro Manila Hills Subdivision, Barangay San Jose in Rodriguez around 7:40 a.m. Saturday.

Carranza said that prior to the shootout, Cabigao acted as the undercover agent who bought shabu from the two suspects. However, Dolorfina recognized Cabigao as a cop and pulled out a concealed firearm and started shooting at the cop who was hit in his neck. Although wounded, the policeman managed to return fire at the suspect. The 2nd suspect also fired shots at the lawmen and even grabbed his child and used the kid as a ‘human shield.’