I join the entire Philippine National Police headed by General Gilor Eleazar in commending members of the PNP Highway Patrol Group Special Operations Division-Task Force Limbas and the Antipolo City Police Station for neutralizing a gang of heavily-armed car thieves and robbers who have gained notoriety for killing even innocent people during a gunbattle last Thursday.
Special mention goes to the officers and men of the HPG Task Force Limbas headed by Lieutenant Colonel Joelito Espero and the Antipolo City police led by Lt. Col. Joey Arandia for putting an end to the checkered career of the suspects who have gained notoriety for robbing ‘soft targets’ and stealing motor vehicles in Luzon.
For the record, several convenience stores and gasoline stations in different parts of Pampanga, Tarlac, Bulacan and Rizal provinces as well as Metro Manila have been targeted by holdup artists amid the pandemic. These ‘armed and dangerous criminals’ are known to have attacked small business establishments particularly at night. In fact, the PNP recorded four incidents of successive robbery-holdups in three 7-Eleven convenience stores and a gasoline station in Tarlac City and the municipalities of Paniqui and Moncada from midnight of August 26 to early dawn of August 27.
Two of the motorcycle-riding suspects in Tarlac were arrested by the local police during a hot pursuit operation. One of the suspects was wounded in a shootout with the lawmen while the other was arrested. However, other members of the group managed to escape and are still out there in the streets.
The HPG SOD-Task Force Limbas also noted that over the past several months, armed thieves have attacked several branches of Alfa Mart, 7-Eleven and gasoline stations in Pampanga, Bulacan and Rizal and the metropolis. All suspects are known to have easily escape arrest by just crossing the boundaries of the areas where they have staged daring heists.
Last October 7, another 7-Eleven branch in Antipolo City was held-up with the motorcycle-riding thieves even shooting a security guard to death. The video of the 7-Eleven heist went viral catching the attention of authorities, the media and the public.
Last October 4, at around 1:30 in the afternoon, six of the suspects in the daring heists were neutralized by the HPG SOD-Task Force Limbas and the Antipolo City police following an ‘intelligence-driven’ operation along Marcos Highway in Barangay San Jose.
Four of the suspects were riding a Kia Rio sedan with a plate number belonging to another car while two were on board a Yamaha Mio Soul motorbike with plate no. 4967UG. I learned that the plate no. ABQ 2011 attached to the Kio Ria was originally issued to a Nissan Almera.
Recovered from the possession of the slain suspects were five chamber-loaded caliber .45 pistols and a cal. .38 revolver and assorted identification cards. Also discovered inside the suspects’ car was the plate no. AAG-3415.
A CCTV footage at the Boso-Boso Shell gasoline station showed that occupants of the Kia Rio opened fire at an officer of the SOD-Task Force Limbas who alighted from their mobile car to check the suspicious license plate of the sedan.
The shots were fired as plainclothes officers from the SOD-Task Force Limbas who were scouring the city radioed the presence of the suspects and a motorcycle-riding tandem roaming around several convenience stores and gasoline stations in the city.
Shots fired by the suspects hit the rear right door of the HPG mobile car prompting its crew to call for back-up and radio the direction of the fleeing suspects. Mobile teams from the Rizal Provincial Highway Patrol Teams and the Antipolo City police immediately put up road blockades to prevent the escape of the armed men.
Eventually, the suspects panicked with their car bumping a steel barrier along the road while the motorcycle driver lost control of the motorbike giving officers the chance to corner them. An ensuing gunbattle led in the killing of the six on the spot. Except for an SOD-Task Force Limbas operative who luckily was saved by his bullet-proof vest, all of the officers involved in the operation were unhurt during the shootout.
PNP-HPG director, Brigadier Gen. Alex Tagum said that prior to the incident, he ordered Espero, the former deputy chief of the SOD-Task Force Limbas to support local territorial units in identifying and arresting the suspects behind the series of daring robbery-holdups.
Espero, the deputy of former SOD-Task Force Limbas chief, Lt. Col. Joel Manuel Ana who is known to have orchestrated major HPG accomplishments since last year said he assigned his intelligence men led by Major Zean Paul Cubil and Lieutenant Jayson Galimba to lead the SOD Tracker Teams that will go after the suspects.
The operation has led to the startling discovery that organized crime groups are now looking after some rogue security guards to perpetrate their illegal activities. They include members of robbery-holdup, carnapping, gunrunning and gun-for-hire rings who have organized themselves into ‘sub-groups or sleeper cells’ that can operate any time of the day in many target areas.
Gen. Eleazar commended the PNP-HPG and the Rizal Police Provincial Office especially the Antipolo City Police for their quick and aggressive anti-criminality operation that resulted in the death of the six suspects.
“Let this serve as a strong message to the criminal elements that while the PNP is extending its assistance to contain the spread of the COVID-19, we have not lower our guard against them and we will continue to do so to maintain peace and order and to protect the people as the government starts to normalize the economy,” the top cop said.
Gen. Eleazar also instructed all unit commanders to further step up the anti-criminality campaign especially now that the national government is already starting to reopen the economy through easing of the restrictions on the pandemic.
“Ngayong nag-uumpisa nang maging normal ang takbo ng ating ekonomiya, inaasahan din namin sa PNP na magiging dahilan ito sa mga kriminal at sindikato na magroon ng lakas ng loob sa dati nilang gawi na pambibiktima ng ating mga kababayan. Dahil dito, inatasan ko na ang lahat ng ating unit commanders, particularly in urban areas, to further strengthen its anti-criminality drive and preemptive security measures to deny these criminal elements the opportunity to strike,” the top cop said.