PDEA chief in Albay hurt in shootoutBy Mar S. Arguelles
Inquirer Southern Luzon
LEGAZPI CITY, Philippines—A provincial officer of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Authority and a bystander were wounded in a shootout between anti-narcotics agents and suspected drug pushers on Rizal Street in the Legazpi Port District Thursday evening, a spokesperson of the Bicol police said Friday.
Superintendent Renato Bataller identified the injured as Arnel Estrellado, PDEA provincial chief, and Gina Sinforosa a native of Manito, Albay.
Bataller said the shootout took place following a drug buy-bust operation conducted by PDEA agents and policemen in which Ronald Lateral, 38, a resident of Barangay Sabang and a suspected illegal drug trader in this city, was arrested on a road leading to the Embarcadero Mall.
Seized from Lateral were two plastic sachets with 10 grams of methampetamine hydrochloride, popularly known as shabu, with a street value of P60, 000.
Christian Frivaldo, PDEA deputy regional director, said in a phone interview that the PDEA team, led by Estrellado and Lateral were traveling in a red Toyota Innova car when they were attacked by two men on a motorcycle who were believed to be members of a drug syndicate.
The operatives were on their way to the PDEA headquarters to book Lateral when one of the men on the motorcycle fired at them, triggering a brief firefight, Frivaldo said.
Sinforoso, who happened to be in the area, was hit by a stray bullet, said Frivaldo. The attackers immediately fled, apparently fearing police reinforcements would arrive, Frivaldo added.
Estrellado was rushed to the Bicol Regional Training and Teaching Hospital while Sinforoso was brought to the Aquinas University Hospital for treatment.
Lateral is being held the PDEA’s detention cell.
Estrellado, though “in stable condition,” was still under observation as the bullet that entered his right armpit was still embedded in his body, Frivaldo said.
Frivaldo said Lateral was a drug distributor operating in this city and was on PDEA’s drug watch list.
Barangay Sabang is a “shabu engagement area where drug pushers and users thrive,” said Frivaldo.
Aside from Barangay Sabang, the list of illegal drug hot spots in Legazpi City include Barangays Pigcale, San Roque, Oro Site and Cruzada.