HPG men living dangerously — Espina

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THURSDAY’S killing of two Philippine National Police Highway Patrol Group agents in North Cotabato by suspected New People’s Army guerrillas exposed anew the danger being faced by HPG operatives in checking motor vehicles with suspicious-looking passengers across the country.

“We lost two police non-commissioned officers with one wounded to NPAs at Makilala, North Cotabato Thursday. These officers were attacked while in the line of duty, manning an anti-carnapping checkpoint in the highway,” said PNP-HPG director, Chief Superintendent Leonardo A. Espina.

The attack prompted Espina to instruct all his men in the countryside to conduct anti-carnapping operations strictly with local territorial units as lawless elements are known to think twice before attacking a big group of officers who can immediately retaliate.

Scores of HPG officers and men have been killed in different parts of the country including in Metro Manila while checking occupants of suspicious vehicles. Sad to say, these policemen patrol the streets without the necessary body armor or bullet-proof vests just like the other officers belonging to territorial units.

Lack of government budget have been hampering efforts to equip each of the country’s patrol officers and members of special units with the necessary bullet-proof vests they need to survive body shots from fearless criminals. In some cases, HPG officers have been ranged against notorious car thieves who are equipped with high-powered weapons and faster cars.

In the early 90s, HPG agents figured in a classic shootout with heavily-armed members of the notorious Solido Gang in front of a posh nightclub along Timog Avenue, Quezon City. The suspects, some of them rogue soldiers involved in armored van and bank robberies in Metro Manila did not hesitate in putting up one big fight. They even blew up an HPG patrol with a rifle grenade until some of them were neutralized. The suspects yielded a virtual cache of high-powered weapons and ammunition.

In the late 90s, gunmen killed one HPG officer trying to flag him along EDSA, Makati. The suspects turned out to be a group of heavily-armed robbers out to attack a target in EDSA when they were accosted by an HPG mobile crew and immediately opened fire thinking that their cover have been blown.

In the early 2000, an HPG regional chief in Mindanao was killed by gunmen who came to the aid of a man accosted by the victim and his men for driving a stolen motor vehicle. The officer was literally blown to pieces after the gunmen used rifle-propelled grenades and M-16 and M-14 automatic rifles in attacking the officer and his subordinates.

The incident prompted the HPG to seek the help of the Army and the Marines in conducting anti-carnapping checkpoints in the region. A number of successful HPG operations in Mindanao had been credited to the full support of the Armed Forces who augmented the HPG agents with heavily-armed soldiers riding tanks and armored personnel carriers.

“We provide the intelligence and they give us enough muscle and firepower to counter the enemies,” said former HPG Special Operations Division-Task Force Limbas chief, Senior Supt. Eleuterio N. Gutierrez Jr. when he was still in the active service. He was referring to their operations in Mindanao where Army and Marine tanks provided them steel support in the highway against lawless elements using motor vehicles stolen from metropolis and smuggled to the South.

Gutierrez has been decommissioned from the service after being shot in the head and nearly died during a 2009 encounter in Paranaque City that left at least a dozen robbers and car thieves posing as policemen dead. Unfortunately, three civilians died in the crossfire.

Espina said the suspected NPA rebels killed Police Officer 3 Rufino Sumugat on the spot while PO1 Raul Pablo died while being taken to the Sto. Nino Hospital in Makilala town.

The following link will take you to www.journal.com.ph:
HPG men living dangerously — Espina (source)

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