Fighting the drug war: Cleaning the ranks
DUTERTE YEAR 2
If he could only turn back the hands of time, Wilfredo Hortezuela would not have allowed his eldest son to become a policeman.
“Risgo kaayo trabahoa. (It’s a very risky job),” he said.
Persistence paved the way for his son to fulfill a childhood dream.
Things went well for years until what they dreaded the most happened.
His son, Senior Insp. Raymond Hortezuela, was gunned down in an alleged shootout with fellow operatives in Barangay Tipolo, Mandaue City last June 10.
Police officials said the 35-year-old cop had long been involved in the narcotics trade and served as one of the police protectors of slain drug lord Jeffrey “Jaguar” Diaz.
Wilfredo, who runs an eatery in their residence in Barangay Looc, Mandaue City, could not believe the accusations.
He said Raymond was the victim of a frame-up and was killed to silence him since he might have known information that would link other police officials to the narcotics trade.
“Buotan gyud tong bataa. Kon drug protector pa siya, dato na unta siya karon. Wala unta siya naglisud pagbuhi sa iyang pamilya. (He was a good man. If he was indeed a drug protector, he would have been rich now. He would not have struggled to raise his family),” the 54-year-old father said.
Raymond, the eldest of three siblings, was the family’s breadwinner.
“Nagmahay mi nga nisugot mi nga mag-police siya. (We regret allowing him to become a policeman),” said Wilfredo who demanded justice for his son.
The younger Hortezuela was among nine policemen in Cebu and another in Bohol killed since the government launched its relentless campaign against illegal drugs on July 1, 2016.
Of the number, three were killed in police operations while the rest were gunned down by unknown assailants.
Aside from Hortezuela, also killed in an alleged shootout with fellow operatives were PO3 Ryan Quiamco on Aug. 15, 2017 and SPO1 Adonis Dumpit last Wednesday, June 27.
Police officers were not the only casualties in the ongoing war on drugs.
Since President Rodrigo Duterte assumed his post two years ago, three barangay captains and a former village chief in Cebu and Bohol were also killed.
Also included in the kill list were two Cebu councilors, two councilmen, and Ronda town Vice Mayor Jonnah John Ungab.
Ungab, a lawyer by profession, had just attended the hearing of his client — self-confessed drug lord Rolando “Kerwin” Espinosa — when he was shot dead by an unknown
assailant while driving his car outside the Cebu City Hall of Justice on February 19, 2018.
The killings did not just invade the open streets; but even what should have been tight security behind bars.
Suspected drug lord Steve Go, who was detained at the Mandaue City Jail, was gunned down by a fellow inmate over an alleged disagreement; although investigators did not discount the possibility that someone ordered the detainee to kill the alleged drug personality.
Except for Go’s case whose suspect was already behind bars and the arrest of two alleged perpetrators in the slay of Barangay Ermita Captain Felicisimo Rupinta, all the high profile murder cases in Cebu that were believed to be drug related remain unsolved.
Drug war records
Based on records of Cebu’s law enforcement units, at least 195 drug suspects in the region were killed in alleged shootouts with policemen, the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency in Central Visayas (PDEA-7) and the National Bureau of Investigation.
213 others were gunned down by still unknown assailants — all in a span of two years.
On the other hand, at least 13,050 drug suspects were arrested in the region, while some 108,742 drug users and pushers surrendered to authorities at the onset of Oplan Tokhang (toktok hangyo), a police door-to-door anti-drug campaign where suspects are asked to surrender and sign documents renouncing their involvement in illegal drugs, either as a user or a peddler.
Since Duterte’s war on drugs began two years ago, law enforcement agencies in the region seized a total of 100,148 grams of shabu valued at P801.2 million based on the street price of P8,000 per gram.
A study recently released by the Ateneo de Manila University and De La Salle University showed that at least 5,021 drug suspects were killed in police operations and unknown assailants across the country in the first 16 months of President Duterte.
Metro Manila was in the top hotspot, accounting for 2,000 deaths, followed by Bulacan at 644, and then Cebu with 383.
The same report found that majority of the victims of the bloody drug war were male and marginalized, such as tricycle drivers, construction workers, vendors, and garbage collectors.
Chief Supt. Debold Sinas, director of the Police Regional Office in Central Visayas (PRO-7) believed they were somehow successful in the campaign against narcotics in the region notwithstanding the President’s announcement last June 7 that Cebu remains a “hotspot” for illegal drugs.
“On the part of the police, I think we were successful. But I won’t force you to believe because we have different perspectives,” Sinas said.
“There may be things which are beyond our control but we’re catching up especially in our anti-drugs campaign and other forms of crime prevention,” he added in a press conference on Friday.
To be more effective in their campaign, Sinas said that they shall continue to clean the police ranks from scalawags.
Since July 2016, at least 200 policemen in Central Visayas, most of whom were assigned in Cebu, had been affected by a shake-up in the organization and transferred either to rebel-infested areas in Luzon or to war-torn areas of Mindanao.
“As citizens of this country, we’re very happy with the President. The way you see, we didn’t only go after ordinary persons involved in illegal drugs. We also ran after rogue policemen,” Sinas said.
“President Duterte has been very supportive of the police, and it boost our morale. We will further strengthen our campaign against all forms of criminalities,” the region’s top policeman declared. /with reports from Norman V. Mendoza and Nestle L. Semilla
(To be continued)
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