CALAPAN CITY—Hours before anticrime crusader Zenaida Luz was shot and killed by two policemen on a motorcycle, one wearing a wig and another a ski mask, she received text messages from a supposed drug pusher seeking protection.
The sender, who did not give his name, claimed involvement in killings reported in nearby Bongabong town and asked the 51-year-old Luz, regional head of the Citizens Crime Watch (CCW), for help in protecting his wife and child.
Richard Albert, Luz’s live-in partner, warned her not to leave, but the woman set out past 11 p.m. on Sunday and waited for the message sender outside their house, which also served as the CCW office, in Barangay Maligaya in Gloria town.
Albert was away at the time and Luz was left with her two children and CCW staff member Mylin Licop in the house.
“It was a decoy,” said Albert, 54, who added that his partner was unaware of the ploy.
“Knowing Zeny, she was strong outside but very soft inside,” he said, and so she went to answer the call for help.
A motorcycle drove by and one of its riders shot Luz. The gunmen also shot her phone that fell on the ground.
Senior Supt. Christopher Birung, Oriental Mindoro police director, said several witnesses alerted the Gloria police about the killing, prompting a chase.
Pursuing policemen cornered the gunmen in Barangay Quinabigan in Pinamalayan town, about 3 kilometers away, triggering a shootout in which the suspected assassins were wounded.
“When they fell to the ground, they began screaming, ‘Tropa, tropa (troops, troops),’” Birung said.
It turned out that the gunmen were ranking police officers—Senior Insp. Magdaleno Pimentel Jr. and Insp. Markson Almeranez.
Pimentel was relieved of his position at the Oriental Mindoro Police Public Safety Company, while Almeranez was removed as police chief of Socorro town following the attack.
Last month, Almeranez was honored as an outstanding police commissioned officer by no less than Philippine National Police Director General Ronald dela Rosa during a ceremony in Calapan.
Investigation showed Pimentel, who wore a ski mask, drove the motorcycle, while Almeranez disguised himself by wearing a wig.
“Of course, the responding policemen were shocked when they realized they had shot the officers,” Birung said.
He said the involvement of the two officers, both graduates of the Philippine National Police Academy, puzzled investigators.
The PNP on Wednesday filed a murder case against them over Luz’s death and multiple attempted murder related to the gunfight with responding policemen.
Pimentel and Almeranez, who were hit in the stomach, are recuperating in a hospital and have yet to issue statements, Birung said.
Albert said Luz “may have angered many but she did not have any enemy.” He believed the murder was related to her work. The two also ran a small homecare products business.
As an official of CCW, Luz was working on a livelihood program for former drug users and pushers who had surrendered to authorities in response to President Duterte’s call to surrender or die in his no-nonsense war on illegal drugs. —WITH A REPORT FROM JEROME ANING IN MANILA
4 CMMA awards for Inquirer