DAVAO CITY, Philippines – The lone survivor of the New People’s Army’s ambuscade in Bansalan town, Davao del Sur province appeared in a press conference on Wednesday to recount how he escaped the attack.
On March 8, four police officers, including one Scene of the Crime Operative died in an ambush conducted by a 14-man NPA squad.
The four slain cops were identified as Mangotara, PO1 Joey Narvaza, PO1 Rolly Benelayo, and the SOCO operative, PO3 Jaden Rabor. PO3 Allen Arnado managed to escape with only scratches to his arms after he jumped off the police vehicle.
“Kaya ako nakasurvive kasi nakita ko yung windshield, yung butas ng bala. Nandito ako sa likuran ng driver kaya nakatalon ako agad. ‘Yun na po, wala na akong alam kung ano nangyari kasi gumapang na ako. Si-nave ko na yung buhay ko (I survived because I saw the bullet hole that struck the windshield. I was seated at the back of the driver that’s why I was able to jump immediately. That was all, I don’t know what happened anymore because I just crawled away. I saved my life),” Arnado said during the AFP-PNP press conference at the Police Regional 11 headquarters in Buhangin, Davao City.
Arnado said he fell down a nearby canal and crawled away to a safe spot where civilians took him to the nearby hospital. He also said that after the initial volley of shots, he heard someone say:”Huwag kayong magpaputok, magki-clear muna ako sa baba (Hold your fire. I will clear the area first).”
“Tapos, nagpaputok sila ulit, tapos wala na (Afterwards, they fired again, and then there was silence),” Arnado added.
Police Chief Insp. Nolan Genova, a medico legal of the Regional Crime Laboratory Office 11 said that it was “highly probable” that those who fired at the police vehicles came from a high ground and went down to “finish off” the police in the vehicles..
Genova also mentioned the case of Police Officer 1 Saro Mangotara, whom he believed had not been killed by the initial shots fired from the high ground, as they did not find any blood inside the police vehicle from where he sat.
Read related story: PNP condemns killing of 4 cops in Bansalan attack
Genova said it was highly possible that the gunmen who fired from the high ground were the same ones who went down to “finish off” the police officers as they bullet casings they found from the high ground and near the vehicle matched. Genova said the bullets came from M14 and M16 rifles.
“Meaning, ‘yung taong pumutok sa taas, bumaba ‘yun para pumutok pa sa baba. Parang fi-ninish nila itong mga kasamahan natin na pulis” (This means that those who fired from the high ground went down to fire at the lower ground. [It looks like] to finish off our fellow policemen), Genova said.
The cops were aboard a Toyota Hilux Pickup truck modified to include an open back dedicated for quick deployment. Mangotara and Narvasa were seated at the open back of the vehicle, but only Narvasa’s blood were found in the vehicle.
Mangotara’s body was found lying at the passenger side of the vehicle, sprawled beside the bodies of Rabor, and the driver Benelayo. Rabor was seated at the front seat.
The crime laboratory however, was not able to examine Mangotara’s body in respect to his religious beliefs. Mangotara was buried march 9, following Islamic custom.
Genova said only the driver, Benelayo, was armed with an M16 rifle but was not able to fire his weapon as he was the first to be shot by the assailants. All four cops also tested negative for the paraffin test, indicating that they were not able to fire their small firearms during the ambush.
Meanwhile, Police Regional Office 11 Regional Director Chief Supt. Manuel Gaerlan said that they are now in the process of collating evidence in order to file the appropriate charges.
“We will let them face the courts, because we are working in due process,” Gaerlan added.
The New People’s Army owned up to the attack, but said the police had fired back, in contrary to the RCLO’s findings.
In a statement, NPA spokesperson Rigoberto Sanchez said the NPA did not fire at the first PNP vehicle after seeing civilians in motorcycles riding nearby at 6:35 am.
“The first police vehicle passed by the NPA ambush position site at 6:35 am. The NPA squad desisted from striking when it saw civilians riding in motorcycles were in close proximity to the moving PNP vehicle,” Sanchez said.
He said the second police vehicle passed by subsequently at around 7:10 am. The NPA squad, who were positioned eight meters from the road, proceeded to ambush the convoy, he added.
“After the initial five-second volley of gunshots, the NPA commander called for the enemy troops to surrender and lay down their arms,” Sanchez said.
However, the PNP personnel fired back, and a ten minute firefight resulted into the deaths of the four personnel, before the rebels approached the vehicles to seize two M16 rifles and two 9mm glock pistols. (davaotoday.com)