Mandaue City’s first drug surrenderer killed in broad daylight
Barely two weeks after he told reporters in an interview in his cell that he continued to fear for his life because he was on the police hit list, Mandaue City’s first drug surrenderer and alleged frequent offender was killed in a daring ambush at past noon on Tuesday.
Pablito Loberanes, 42, was shot by four unidentified men aboard two motorcycles shortly after posting bail for illegal drugs and firearms possession charges at the Mandaue City Palace of Justice located at the reclamation area.
Loberanes was ambushed along P. Rosal corner M.C. Briones Street in Mandaue, about a kilometer away from the court, while on board a Suzuki van together with five companions which included four women.
Witnesses told Cebu Daily News that several of Loberanes’ friends and relatives were seen escorting him when he posted bail purportedly to guard him against imminent danger.
As he boarded his vehicle, a witness said, Loberanes sat at the back in between two lady companions, identified as Daisy Pacho and a certain Gang-Gang, as if to ward off feared attackers with the presence of several women in the van.
Instead, Pacho ended up dead while Gang-Gang, said to be Loberanes’ live-in partner, was injured along with the van’s driver identified as Jerson Hermosa.
Gang-Gang managed to jump out of the van while Hermosa run off with a gunshot wound in his nape, witnesses said.
The two are now confined at the Vicente Sotto Memorial Medial Center (VSMMC) where they were rushed following the incident.
Senior Inspector Janelito Marquez, station commander of Centro Police Station, said they will provide security to the surviving victims at VSMMC.
“We will provide them with a police escort until the time they will be discharged from the hospital,” Marquez said.
Loberanes’ other companions, Eva Valiente and Darlene Carsona, remained unharmed.
Initial police investigation showed that the victims were heading home to Barangay Pakna-an when four men on board two motorcycles blocked the path of the van and peppered the victims’ vehicles with bullets, said SPO1 Marino Lofranco, investigator of Centro Police Station.
Motorists, passersby and people eating in a nearby carenderia all scampered for safety amid the volley of fire.
A witness said the suspects tailed the victims’ van and fired the shots as soon as it reached P. Rosal Street in Barangay Guizo.
Mandaue’s Command Center’s closed-circuit cameras at the intersection of MC Briones corner AS Fortuna streets also showed that the suspects’ motorcycles were following the victims’ vehicle.
Police are still hunting down the four gunmen who fled on board their motorcycles traversing A. Del Rosario Street.
Investigators of the Scene of the Crime Operatives (SOCO) found 12 empty shells at the crime scene.
SPO1 Lofranco said they have yet to determine the motive behind the ambush, but surmised that it had something to do with a rivalry between members of illegal drug syndicates.
According to him, Loberanes was also shot three weeks ago by unknown persons in Liloan town, north Cebu and was hit on his right upper arm but survived the attack.
When he was about to post bail yesterday, Loberanes requested his relatives, mostly women, to escort him to protect him from persons who wanted to kill him.
Mandaue City’s “most wanted”
Loberanes, a resident of Barangay Basak, Mandaue City, was the city’s first drug personality to surrender last June, weeks after Rodrigo Duterte won the country’s Presidency.
He went to the Mandaue City Police Office (MCPO) in the evening of June 8, 2016 and voluntarily turned over to the Investigation and Detection Management Branch (IDMB) packs containing shabu (methamphetamine) and a KG 9 submachine firearm.
He had then told police that he wanted to start a new life.
He was later released from detention because there was no case filed against him.
Weeks later, Loberanes convinced around twelve of his relatives and friends who were into drugs to also surrender. He then brought them to the Paknaan Barangay Hall and surrendered to Barangay Captain Malaquis Soco and the Station Commander of Basak Police Station.
Police claimed that for several years, the Loberanes brothers, including their father, were known drug peddlers in Zone Monggos, Sitio Dasco, Barangay Paknaan and were the subject of many police drug operations.
Tagged as level one drug pusher in Mandaue City, Loberanes could dispose about a kilo of shabu weekly.
But last January 2, Loberanes was arrested for possession of illegal drugs and firearms after he figured in a road accident involving three vehicles along M.C. Briones Street in Barangay Basak.
Senior Police Officer Froilan Gomez, who responded to the alarm, recovered a .38 caliber Smith and Wesson revolver and 14 small packs of shabu from Loberanes’ vehicle.
Loberanes was eventually charged in court for illegal possession of firearms and prohibited drugs.
At past 11 a.m. yesterday, he was released from police custody after posting bail.
However, earlier while still in detention at the Basak Police Station, he told reporters that after his June 8 surrender, he no longer showed up to report regularly to the police, unlike other surrenderers, because he feared that police would kill him.
Mandaue City Mayor Luigi Quisumbing, who rushed to the crime scene just minutes after the incident, asked the PNP to conduct a thorough investigation on the incident.
“We hope that the police will be able to identify the perpetrators so as to give justice to the victims,” he said.
“It’s unfortunate that it happened in broad daylight, but this person has been victimizing a lot of people for a very long time. I am confident that Mandaue will remain to be a safe city for those who follow the law,” Quisumbing added.
Based on records of the Police Regional Office in Central Visayas (PRO-7), about 200 drug suspects were killed by unknown assailants since July 1 while 152 were gunned down in police operations.
Chief Supt. Noli Taliño, PRO-7 director, urged the police to do more in the government’s campaign against illegal drugs.
“I should say that the first six months since I assumed as regional director was a success with regards to our anti-illegal drugs campaign. We accomplish many things and in fact, went beyond our targets. We should continue to accomplish many things,” he told reporters.
Taliño said their target now is to get more high-value targets and clear barangays from illegal drugs.
“We’re not saying that the number of drug suspects who were killed defines our success. What we’re hoping is that there will be more drug surrenderers in the coming days,” Taliño said.
A 10-day gun ban has been implemented in the city and province of Cebu, including Mandaue City, since Monday to cover the Fiesta Señor religious celebration, the Sinulog festival, and the Miss Universe’s pageant swimwear competition.
As of yesterday, no violator had been arrested while lawless elements continue to operate with their guns.
Msgr. Joseph Tan, media liaison officer of the Archdiocese of Cebu, called on the people to pray for victims of the killings, and urged investigators to solve the crimes.
“As a community of faith, we call on everyone to pray for peace. We are about to end the Fiesta Señor celebration. This incident (Mandaue ambush) may spark fear among visitors. As they come here, they expect to experience our warm hospitality. It’s not appropriate if there are cases which remain unresolved,” he told CDN over the phone.
“We need to pray for sobriety. I hope there will be an end to needless violence which remain unresolved and a mystery until now,” he said.