LEGAZPI CITY, Philippines – Suspected drug pushers shot and critically wounded the Albay chief of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) as they attempted to rescue an arrested companion here Thursday night.
PDEA-Bicol deputy regional director Christian Frivaldo Sr. said Arnel Estrellado, PDEA-Albay provincial officer, suffered a bullet wound in the right armpit.
Frivaldo said Estrellado was shot by motorcycle-riding men while he was escorting an Isuzu van that was about to pick up one Ronald Literal, who was arrested in a joint PDEA-police drug buy-bust in his house in Barangay Sabang here.
Frivaldo said a civilian, identified as Gina Sinforoso, was hit by a stray bullet in the right shoulder in the exchange of gunfire. She was rushed to the Bicol Regional Training and Teaching Hospital in Daraga town.
He said Estrellado was being treated in an undisclosed hospital as the bullet pierced one of his lungs.
PDEA-Region 5 director Archie Grande said Estrellado would undergo an operation in three to four days to remove the bullet.
He said Estrellado was under observation but his vital signs were stable and that he was conscious.
Frivaldo said the gunmen could have been told that their arrested companion was inside the van. “Probably the suspects thought their arrested companion was inside the van that’s why they tried to rescue him. But our men were ready as they managed to fire back. Unluckily though, one of our agents was hit,” he told The STAR.
Frivaldo said the shootout took place about 20 minutes after the buy-bust where Literal who was found in possession of two sachets of shabu worth about P60,000.
He said manhunt operations were ongoing for the gunmen who sped away after the PDEA agents shot it out with them.
“We have already set up checkpoints in strategic places in the Bicol to track down these suspects,” Frivaldo said.
Literal was placed under the custody of the Legazpi City police while appropriate charges were being prepared against him.
Frivaldo said drug syndicates in Bicol could be in a retaliatory mood following a series of drug buy-busts across the region, resulting in the arrest of dozens of drug pushers and the seizure of a big bulk of shabu. – With Reinir Padua - By Cet Dematera