Butuan City – Around PhP11.8 million worth of shabu (methamphetamine hydrochloride) were seized by police operatives here after a firefight broke out Thursday night with suspected drug pushers, killing one suspect, wounding two others, plus one confidential agent at the national highway in Barangay Libertad.
Nine medium sized plastic packs of shabu weighing in at around 1 kilogram, and estimated by the Dangerous Drug Board to have a street value of PhP11,800,000.00 were recovered inside the yellow Ford Escape compact crossover vehicle, together with the body of the suspected drug pusher, identified initially as Reynaldo Labares Abordo, 36 years old, married, from Purok 1, Barangay Sabangan, San Isidro, Davao del Norte.
The fire fight had ensued between the suspect and police operatives from the Butuan City Police Office (BCPO).
Four caliber .45 pistols were also recovered from various spots on the scene of the encounter, which took place at around 8:00 in the evening of May 18, 2017 along the national highway in Purok 6, Barangay Libertad near the border of Barangay Bancasi.
“We actually did not expect that the operation would turn out this big, since we were tipped that this group was from Agusan del Sur, and we assumed that it won’t be a major transaction,” said one of the police officers from the City Drug Enforcement Unit (CDIU) who requested anonymity for security reasons.
“An interrogation after an initial buy bust with an arrested suspect, Johnny Villagonza Calawigan of Agusan del Sur, led us to the location of this suspect’s vehicle. We then positioned ourselves in front of the Ford Escape and made our approach.
“Suddenly, gunfire emanated from inside the vehicle, hitting our confidential agent. We returned fire and the gun battle with the suspects erupted,” the police officer added.
“We were all outside our vehicles trying to fight off the suspects while raining covering fire for our wounded agent. All of the sudden, our arrested suspect, Calawigan, who was seated at the back of the private vehicle we were using, shifted to the driver’s seat and sped away.”
A responding unit of the Philippine Army 23rd Infantry Battalion from the camp in nearby Barangay Bancasi fired at the fleeing suspect.
“We then reinforced the scene and secured a portion of the road, carefully holding our fire as it was difficult to distinguish between law enforcers and the suspects in the dark. We had only lights from the responding police vehicles to illuminate the scene,” said Captain Geraldo Magayaga, commanding officer of the Special Civilian Armed Auxiliary (SCAA) of the 23IB.
Other suspects who managed to flee the scene were eventually arrested after follow-up operations based on information provided by residents in the area.
Calawigan was recaptured in the vicinity of P-9 Barangay San Vicente and was brought to MJ Santos Hospital for medical treatment after suffering gunshot wounds.
Another suspect, Reneboy Maputol Guno, was arrested near Purok 7A, Barangay Libertad, and brought to Agusan del Norte Provincial Hospital for treatment after being wounded close to the hips.
Authorities are still looking for the fourth suspect who was believed to have also been wounded in the encounter.
Senior Police Superintendent Percival Augustus Placer, Director of the Butuan City Police Office, said they are looking into the possibility that the drugs might have been brought over from Marawi City, and the suspects came to Butuan to sell and distribute the shabu as the city was in its annual fiesta mood.
ALL PHOTOGRAPHS BY ERWIN MASCARIÑAS, NEWS 5 | INTERAKSYON