SHOOTOUT SITE. Policemen cordon off a rice field in Hacienda Bariw, Barangay Santa Teresa in Manapla, Negros Occidental, where four suspected drug personalities were killed in a shootout with police operatives on Monday morning, March 18, 2019. (Photo courtesy of Bombo Radyo Bacolod)
BACOLOD CITY -- A high-value target drug suspect and three others died in a shootout with police operatives in a buy-bust at Hacienda Bariw, Barangay Santa Teresa in Manapla, Negros Occidental around 7:30 a.m. on Monday.
Col. Romeo Baleros, director of Negros Occidental Police Provincial Office, confirmed the deaths in an interview with reporters at the crime scene in the northern Negros town.
Of the four male fatalities, Baleros said the police initially identified primary target, Alson Aguirre, who was allegedly involved in illegal drugs trading in Silay City.
Aguirre was listed by the police as the sub-leader of the Silay-based Divinagracia drug group.
Radio reports said two other fatalities, including a tricycle driver, were also identified, but the police have not named them yet.
A report from the Police Regional Office (PRO)-6 (Western Visayas) said that among the items recovered from the slain suspects were an M16 rifle, a KG9 machine pistol, a .45-caliber pistol, and an undetermined volume of suspected shabu.
Baleros said Aguirre’s hideout, located near a rice field, is “very strategic for illegal drug transactions”, adding that communication equipment has been installed in the safehouse connected to the area where the “lookouts” are positioned.
“Mahirap silang basta pasukin. Mahirap din silang basta hulihin (The area is difficult to penetrate so it is also difficult to arrest them),” he said.
Baleros said the police finally got a breakthrough when a poseur-buyer was able establish communication with Aguirre.
During the transaction in his vehicle, Aguirre became aware that he was transacting with an undercover policeman and ran towards the safehouse, where the shootout started.
“His companions also fired at the operatives and an exchange of fire took place outside, where they were neutralized,” Baleros said.
“They are armed and dangerous, it is good the group was able to neutralize them. They might be used or hired by desperate politicians,” he added.
The operation was conducted by joint operatives of Manapla Municipal Police Station, Negros Occidental Police Mobile Force Company, 6th Regional Public Safety Battalion, and the 6th Special Action Force Battalion.
In July last year, Aguirre and his father, Sammy, evaded arrest during a search warrant operation conducted by the police and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency at Villa Hergon, Barangay Rizal in Silay City. (PNA)