PNP saddened by death of girl, 3, in anti-drug ops

THE Philippine National Police yesterday expressed grief over the death of a 3-year old girl whom investigators claimed was used by his armed father as a ‘human shield’ as the latter and a cohort exchanged fire with an undercover officer in Rodriguez, Rizal last Saturday.

“It is very unfortunate that a 3-year old child became a collateral casualty in the most recent incident of violent confrontation with drug suspects in Rizal province where a senior police operative died and two drug suspects were slain, among them, the child’s father.

That incident shows the danger faced by law enforcement officers when effecting arrest of drug offenders, particularly armed members of notorious drug syndicates, in this case, two suspects armed with a cal.45 and a cal.38 revolver against a lone police officer armed with a service pistol,” said PNP spokesman, Colonel Bernard M. Banac.

Citing an investigation report from the Rizal Police Provincial Office headed by Col. Lou F. Evangelista, the PNP spokesperson said that the gunfight erupted when the armed suspects, Renato Ulpina alias ‘Kato’ and an unidentified male cohort, apparently sensed that they were dealing with an undercover police officer, Senior Master Sergeant Conrado Cabigao Jr. and immediately drew their concealed guns and fired shots at the     lawman.

The Rizal police report said that Cabigao was forced to defend himself from the assault by engaging the suspects in a shootout until he succumbed from a fatal gunshot wound in the neck.

“The investigation also disclosed that suspect Kato may have used the child –identified by the Human Rights Watch as ‘Myka Ulpina’ as “human shield” when he emerged downstairs with gun ablaze.  

Any armed engagement especially close quarters combat in a cramped environment like this is very chaotic and the confluence of events is fast and unpredictable to allow more calibrated and cautious reactions. Sgt Cabigao may have acted purely on human instinct to survive that ordeal but was simply outgunned by the two suspects,” said Banac.

According to Evangelista, the wounded child was immediately rushed by members of the operating unit to a nearby hospital in a life-saving effort, but all attempts failed to revive the child.

On Monday, PNP chief, Director General Oscar D. Albayalde led the mourning over the death of Cabigao whom he said was the 50th member of the police force to have been killed since the Duterte government launched its war on drugs in July 2016.

“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,” said Gen. Albayalde in referring to Cabigao, a 37-year old member of the Rizal Police Provincial Office who left behind a wife named Mae and their two children aged 12 and seven.

“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,” said Gen. Albayalde 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?

Let me emphasize that the paramount objective of any police intervention is to effect the arrest of the offender. And 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,” said Gen. Albayalde as he visited the wake of the fallen cop.

Since July 2016, more than 6,000 armed drug traffickers in the country have been killed in reported gunbattles with anti-narcotics  officers also Gen. Albayalde said that “PNP systems and procedures are focused toward this objective to make more arrests by enhancing the capability of our personnel through better equipment and training.”

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.’

Police Regional Office 4-A director, Brigadier General Edward E. Carranza said 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, ‘Kato’ 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.’