FORMER Pangasinan governor and congressman Amado Espino Jr. has been declared out of danger after being shot in an ambush in San Carlos City, Pangasinan on Wednesday.
“The former congressman is in stable condition, he’s out of danger. The others are, one of them is still being treated, the others are out of danger already,” said Pangasinan police director Col. Redrico Maranan.
Espino’s police security escort, Staff Sgt. Richard Esguerra, died on the spot while three other escorts were injured – police Staff Sgt. Jayson Malsi and civilians Kevin Marfori and Agapito Culson.
Maranan said he talked to Espino yesterday at the hospital where he was recuperating. Reports earlier said Espino was brought to the Blessed Family Doctors General Hospital in San Carlos.
Maranan said a task force (Special Investigation Task Force Espino) had been formed to look into the ambush.
Maranan said Espino was on his way to the San Carlos City proper, from Basista town, when his sports utility vehicle and an escort vehicle were fired upon by unidentified gunmen around 4:30 p.m. on Perez Blvd.
“The former congressman sustained a gunshot wound on the right side of his stomach and his right hand was grazed (by a bullet),” said Maranan.
Maranan said the driver of the escort vehicle, former policeman Anthony Columbio, was unscathed and went home after the ambush. He said Columbio was later invited, as a witness, to shed light on the incident.
Two of the three vehicles used by the gunmen have been recovered, along with seven rifles, a 12-gauge shotgun, a hand grenade, magazines and ammunition. Also recovered were about 169 spent shells.
Maranan said Espino wrote him a letter last week requesting for a police security detail because of threats he had been receiving. Maranan did not elaborate.
“If I am not mistaken, last week he wrote us because he received threats, so we provided him (a) temporary security detail. We gave him (security) upon his request.”
Citing police assessments, Maranan said the gunmen appeared to be members of a gun-for-hire syndicate.
“Based on the equipment we recovered, high powered (firearms), and the vehicles they used, and how they moved, these are pros. (The attack) seemed precise, the planning was good,” he said.
He, however, refused to speculate as to the motive.
“We believe the motive will come out based on the evidence that (we) are going to gather. Once you complete that (evidence gathering), you’ll develop the motive,” he said, adding they want to solve the case as soon as possible but are not setting a timeline.
“We are conducting a thorough (investigation). We don’t want to miss anything, commit a mistake. We want to solve this case as soon as possible in a correct, proper way.”
The leadership of the House of Representatives condemned in the strongest possible term the attempt on the life of Espino and demanded that the PNP leave no stone unturned to bring the perpetrators to justice.
“The House leadership under Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano condemns in the strongest possible terms the ambush incident. We appeal to our authorities to arrest those behind this dastardly act,” said majority leader Martin Romualdez.
Deputy Speaker Luis Raymond Villafuerte of Camarines Sur said “such murderous act has no place in our society, especially under this administration that has won broad and deep popular support because of its tough stance on crime.”
“The House leadership is calling on the Philippine National Police (PNP) to form right away a strike force that would track down and apprehend the suspects along with the brains behind this dastardly act—and to put all of them behind bars at the soonest possible time,” said Villafuerte.