American diver who helped search for Robredo killed
An argument with a subdivision security guard Thursday night led to the fatal shooting of an American diver and businessman who last year received an award from President Aquino for helping the Coast Guard search for the body of then Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo.
Matthew Caldwell, 59, of Hamilton Heights, Las Piñas City, was shot in the face allegedly by security guard Ericson Elacquio, who escaped with another guard following the incident, police said.
The American was killed three days shy of the first anniversary of Robredo’s death.
Chief Insp. Eddie Galang of the Las Piñas police said the suspect shot the victim during an argument at the gate around 10:30 p.m. Caldwell and his live-in partner, Jeanelyn Flora, 36, were in their Toyota Corolla on their way home when Elacquio refused to let them enter.
The guards at the gate had been ordered by the subdivision management not to give access to residents who had been delinquent in paying monthly dues, according to Chief Insp. Vanni Martinez, head of the investigation unit.
Elacquio refused to raise the wooden boom barrier when he encountered the couple, according to the officers.
It was not the first time that the security guard and the American had a heated exchange over unpaid dues. “We saw at least three similar records in the guards’ logbook, with (Caldwell) reported as cursing the guards at one point and even cutting the ropes of the wooden boom [barrier],” Martinez said.
Elacquio snapped after the couple argued with him again. When Caldwell tried to remove the wooden boom of the gate, the security guard drew his service firearm and shot the American pointblank.
The suspect fled with another guard identified only as “Bacornay” on a red motorcycle (IA-4929).
On Friday, the Philippine Coast Guard expressed its condolences to Caldwell’s loved ones and condemned the shooting.
The PCG said the victim was a technical diver and a member of the PCG Auxiliary (PCGA) unit, a civilian support group.
“Matt really loved the Philippines. He was very helpful to the Coast Guard in the past years and was willing to lend his services for free whenever we asked for his help,” public affairs chief Commander Armando Balilo said in a statement.
The PCG said Caldwell, who had been residing in the country for more than 20 years, served as a facilitator in “Task Force Kalihim,” the search and retrieval operation that was launched following the plane crash that killed Robredo in the waters off Masbate province last year.
His participation in Kalihim earned Caldwell an award from President Aquino, the PCG said.
When Caldwell was killed Thursday, he was heading home from a visit to a fellow PCGA technical diver in Ayala Alabang in Muntinlupa City.
The Las Piñas police also identified Caldwell as a director of Allegro Microsystems Inc.