Police eyes 10 suspects in ex-Pangasinan guv’s ambush

SAN CARLOS CITY, Pangasinan — About 10 unidentified assailants ambushed a convoy of former Pangasinan governor Amado Espino Jr. Wednesday afternoon, the police said.

In a press briefing Thursday, Pangasinan Police Provincial Office (PPPO) director Col. Redrico Maranan said they have persons of interest but they wanted to establish first a solid case against them.

“We’ve done dragnet operations, backtracking of closed circuit television cameras (CCTV), and we have a team solely dedicated in CCTV footages. We are on the process of taking composite sketch based from the statement of eye witnesses,” he said.

Maranan said from their assessment, the suspects are members of a gun-for-hire group considering the weapons used and their execution of the crime.

He disclosed that authorities recovered more than 169 empty shells of high-powered guns from the crime scene.

Hours after the ambush, authorities recovered two suspected get-away vehicles loaded with high-powered guns in Barangay Cobol in San Carlos City and in Barangay Pasima in Malasiqui town.

Found inside the bluish silver Ford Everest, suspected to be a get-away vehicle of the suspects, which was found abandoned at Barangay Pasima were a fragmentation grenade, two M14 rifles, four magazine assembly for M14 rifle, an M16 rifle, a baby armalite, and three magazine assembly for M16 rifles.

Maranan said they were able to recover from the other suspected get-away vehicle, a red Hyundai Elantra, two M16 baby armalites, a M16 rifle, five short magazine assembly for M16, four long magazine assembly for M16, and 34 live ammunitions for M16.

“We are still identifying the owners of the cars and we have coordinated with the Land Transportation Office and the highway patrol group. We are also waiting for the ballistic report on the firearms then the cross-matching to see if these were used in other crimes,” Maranan said.

Aside from the two recovered vehicles, he said, they are also looking for a Toyota Wigo allegedly used by the suspects.

Police forensics, he said, are conducting bullet trajectory on Espino’s convoy, an Innova and a Land Cruiser.

Maranan said the motive for the incident has yet to be established by the authorities as it will be anchored from the pieces of evidence.

“The former governor wrote to us last week about the threats he was receiving, so we gave him temporary security details,” he said.

Espino, Agapito Cuison, Staff Sgt. Jason Malsi, Anthony Columbino, Staff Sgt. Richard Esguerra and Kervin Marbori, were onboard a Toyota Innova and a Land Cruiser, when still unidentified gunmen fired at them while traversing intersection of Barangay Magtaking and Barangay Ilang San Carlos City on Wednesday at 4:20 p.m.

“The assailants waited for Espino’s convoy and they got out of the cars and fired at them when they reached the intersection. The Innova was riddled with bullets but the Land Cruiser where Espino was onboard was able to reach the nearby hospital,” Maranan said quoting witnesses.

Maranan said Esguerra died on the spot, while Espino was wounded on the right side of his stomach and right hand, but is in stable condition since Wednesday night.

Cuison, Malsi and Marbori were also wounded, while Columbino, who was unharmed during the ambush, managed to flee.

“Columbino was nowhere to be found after the incident so we traced him and found him. He initially told us that he got scared after the shooting incident, so he left and went to his home province. We are yet to get his full statement on the incident,” he said.

“We are hoping to solve this case in due time in a correct and proper way,” Maranan added.

The Special Investigation Task Group (SITG) Espino Jr. was formed Wednesday with the joint efforts of the PPPO, Crime Investigation and Detection Group Regional Office (Ilocos), Police Regional Office among others, to probe the case, he added.  Hilda Austria / PNA – northboundasia.com