Shootout or rubout? Doubts hound police killing in Caloocan
A Caloocan City police official shot to death a man who allegedly tried to elude arrest for going around half-naked in their neighborhood Friday night.
Chief Insp. Narciso Cajipe Jr., commander of Caloocan Police Community Precinct (PCP) 6, said Mario Balagtas, 32, engaged him in a shootout. However, neighbors of Balagtas said they heard him begging for his life before he was shot dead.
Balagtas died of gunshot wounds in the chest.
At about 10:30 p.m., PCP 6 members led by Cajipe conducted an “Oplan Galugad” operation in Barangay 178 to arrest residents drinking or going shirtless in public or violating the curfew.
As they were about to accost three men — Balagtas, another shirtless man and a bystander — along Petchayan Street, two of them ran away while Balagtas rushed to the apartment he was renting nearby and locked himself in, Cajipe said.
Balagtas allegedly shot at the police once through the door and hit the chest of Cajipe, who was wearing a bulletproof vest.
The Inquirer went to see the house of Balagtas on Saturday. The door did not appear to have any bullet holes.
Cajipe said Balagtas fired at him again after he and his team forced their way into the house, prompting him to shoot and kill the man.
Armando Bersuela, a housemate of Balagtas, recalled hearing a gunshot at the time and then someone yelling, “Lalaban ka pa? (You still want to fight?)”
Mhai Julka, a nurse who occupied a room upstairs, said “I heard two more gunshots while someone was saying, ‘Tama na po, hindi na po ako lalaban.’ He was crying.
“Then someone again said : ‘Ah, lalaban ka pa, ah.’ Then I heard a few more gunshots — and then there was silence,” Julka said.
Cajipe belied insinuations of a rubout. “If that is what they say then they should file an affidavit. Biglaan lang iyon eh (It happened suddenly) … Maybe they are just (saying) that to undermine the operation.”
Recovered from the scene was a .45-caliber pistol which Balagtas allegedly used, two bullet slugs and casings, and drug paraphernalia, Cajipe said.
Police said they later learned from the neighbors of Balagtas that he was suspected to be a member of a criminal gang.
Balagtas, who moved into the apartment two months ago, often had men on motorbikes dropping by his unit, said Julka’s live-in partner, John Martin Azcueta.
“But he’s okay, and besides the issue here is not whether he was a criminal. The issue is if he really resisted arrest,” Azcueta said. /cbb
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