Female cop chief leads in fighting off NPA attack in Agusan Sur
TAGUM City, Philippines—As shots rang out early morning Saturday, policewoman Charity Galvez grabbed her baby and made sure her infant and her nanny were safe.
Galvez then picked up her gun and joined her colleagues in fighting dozens of communist New People’s Army (NPA) rebels, who had stormed the police station of Trento, Agusan del Sur, which she headed, around 4 a.m.
The 39-year-old former teacher furiously led her men, numbering about a dozen, in repelling the attackers.
When the smoke cleared after an hour-long gun battle, two civilians lay dead and three others, including two lawmen, had been wounded, according to Superintendent Martin Gamba, spokesman of the Caraga regional police office.
Gamba said Salvador Ralla Jr., who had served as errand boy for the police station for years now, and militiaman Vergilio Perocho, died during the incident. Another civilian, Alexander Lagulao, was also injured in the crossfire.
Gamba identified the wounded policemen as Police Officer 3 Mhel Hubo, PO1 Joel Lazarte and civilian Alexander Lagulao.
“I had to fight to live,” Galvez said.
She recalled that she and some of her men had just arrived from a patrol when the rebels – on board two mini-cargo trucks and a van – suddenly arrived.
“I was preparing to doze off beside my child inside my office when the shooting began. I immediately sprang up, grabbed her and with her nanny, led them to a safe spot at the back portion of the office and geared for battle,” Galvez told the Philippine Daily Inquirer by mobile phone on Sunday.
As the firefight dragged on, Galvez said she maneuvered toward her men, positioned behind a pile of tires used as physical barrier and started firing.
After being assured by her subordinates they could defend the area, she said she went back to her office and took position at a door facing the municipal building, pushing back several attackers who attempted to breach.
“To keep the men’s morale high, I continued to exhort them to fight while firing,” Galvez said.
Galvez’s only child and the nanny were unharmed.
A resident of San Francisco town, also in Agusan del Sur, Galvez became Trento’s top cop for just over a year.
She admitted that Saturday’s clash was her “baptism of fire.”
Galvez said her husband, an employee of a water utility company in San Francisco, became “very tensed” upon learning of the attack.
“I joined the force in the early 2000s after seven years of teaching at the (Father Saturnino) Urios (University in Butuan). I also studied criminology while making my way in the service and passed the licensure examination and became a criminologist,” she said.
Galvez said she became a junior police officer through the Philippine National Police’s lateral entry program in 2008.
Before being given the post of Trento police chief, Galvez said she was assigned to office and administrative duties at the provincial police headquarters in Prosperidad town.
“And the closest assignment I had when it came to fire fights was when I became an investigator,” she said.
Major Noli Kanashiro, spokesman of the Army’s 4th Infantry Division based in Cagayan de Oro City, said the Trento policemen displayed exceptional bravery when they fought off the rebels.
As for Galvez, she said she did not regret joining the police.
“When I decided to quit teaching to enlist with the PNP (Philippine National Police) I already knew and weighed the possible risks. We even have a saying here, ‘Die today, die tomorrow, the same die.’ As long as you fight for what you believe is right,” Galvez said.
She said the threat of another NPA attack would always be there and her command has been implementing measures to make the station less vulnerable to attacks.
“I always tell my personnel the importance of putting up strong physical barriers. We, officers, just come and go, but the security of our men and the people should remain,” Galvez said.