ILIGAN CITY (Updated)–Five members of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency were killed while two others were wounded in an ambush by still unidentified perpetrators in the Lanao del Sur town of Kapai.
Chief Supt. Graciano Mijares, director of the Police Regional Office in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (PRO-ARMM), said the ambush took place along the national highway in Barangay Malna, Kapai town, around noon.
Mijares said the victims were on board a Toyota van and were heading home to Marawi City from a drug symposium for drug surrenderers in the Lanao del Sur town of Tagoloan II when waylaid.
Senior Supt. Ronald Briones, Lanao del Sur police provincial director, identified four of the five casualties as PDEA agents Kenneth Tabulo, Kristine Mae Torlao, Lores Joy Amar, and Binzo Dipolla. They were declared dead on arrival by attending physicians at the Amai Pakpak Medical Center in Marawi City.
Another casualty, Diobel Pacinio, died while undergoing treatment at the hospital, Briones said.
The two wounded personnel, Rachel Gentapanan of PDEA and Tagoloan police non-uniformed personnel Normina Dicay, are still being treated.
Briones said the policemen who escorted the victims were able to return fire.
Mijares said pursuit operations are still ongoing against the perpetrators.
PDEA chief condemns attack
Meanwhile, PDEA Director General Aaron Aquino denounced the ambush.
“We strongly condemn to the highest sense the cowardly and atrocious killing of our six agents in Lanao. This is unacceptable to the government and to the PDEA leadership,” Aquino said in a statement.
He assured the families of the slain agents that PDEA will do a full investigation to identify the perpetrators behind the killing.
“This act of inhumanity and cowardice, taking the lives of our comrades in a surprise attack, will not just pass as another common incident in our day-to-day operations on the fight against illegal drugs. We will use all our resources to put these animals in jail and we will intensify our campaign against their illegal operations. Their death will not go in vain. We will fight even more with fierce commitment and determination,” he said.
The PDEA chief said the incident has given the agency more strength to continue its crusade to go after illegal drug syndicates.
“Kami po ay taos-pusong nakikiramay sa pamilya ng mga kasamahan nating nabiktima ng karahasang ito (We are sending our heartfelt condolences to the families of our people who fell victims to this violence),” he added. Noel Punzalan, Divina Suson and Jigger Jerusalem with reports from Christopher Lloyd T. Caliwan/PNA-northboundasia.com