2 killed as Maganto’s men raid wrong house in Laguna

() - May 14, 2003 - 12:00am
Two men, one of them a policeman, were killed when a police task force assaulted a wrong house in Famy, Laguna late Monday in search of Superintendent Rafael Cardeno, prime suspect in the Dec. 31, 2001 slaying of Baron Cervantes.

Benjamin Bagulbagul, 49, who the police tagged as a local drug dealer, and PO3 Apolinario Jimenez, team leader of a task force looking into the murder of the self-styled Young Officers’ Union (YOU) spokesman, died in hospital after the apparent misencounter.

Bagulbagul’s girlfriend was wounded in the shootout, police said.

But Chief Superintendent Romeo Maganto, commander of Task Force Car-Cer, denied yesterday that his agents had raided the wrong house in Laguna.

"I’m sure that was the house that Cardeno and Camacho used as a safehouse," Maganto said in a phone interview, referring to the two main suspects in the New Year’s Eve killing, Cardeno and Sonny Camacho.

Reports reaching the office of Chief Superintendent Jaime Caringal, CALABARZON police director, revealed the firefight erupted at about 10 p.m. the other night between Maganto’s men and Bagulbagul at his residence in Barangay Damayan, Famy.

Caringal said Maganto’s men were conducting surveillance operations in the area when Bagulbagul and his group, thinking they were the subject of the police operation, engaged the lawmen in a shootout.

"Pareho silang nagkabulagaan, kaya nagkaputukan," Caringal said, implying the two groups tried to beat each other to the draw.

At the height of the gunbattle, Maganto’s men, also believing that they had already cornered Cardeno and his close-in security, assaulted Bagulbagul’s residence.

When the smoke cleared, the task force agents failed to find any trace of Cardeno or his bodyguards, only the critically wounded Bagulbagul and his live-in partner, Maricel Bantukan, 30.

The couple were brought to the provincial hospital along with Jimenez, who was also badly wounded. Jimenez and Bagulbagul died while undergoing medical treatment.

Senior Superintendent Edwin Corvera, Laguna police director, said Bantukan was hit by a stray bullet on the leg and was now recuperating at the provincial hospital.

Corvera said that while a thorough investigation was being made by Laguna police, initial reports he received revealed that Jimenez’s team was fired upon by Bagulbagul at about 9:45 p.m. Monday, hitting Jimenez instantly.

"Jimenez was hit in the first volley of fire coming from the house of Bagulbagul, that’s why they (police) were forced to retaliate," he said, adding Bagulbagul may have mistaken the police team to be casing his house for possible shabu.

Cardeno, who once served as technical consultant of then Land Transportation Office (LTO) chief retired Gen. Edgardo Abenina, went into hiding after being tagged as the brains behind Cervantes’ murder along the Alabang-Zapote Road at the close of year 2001.

He was officially linked to the crime by the confessed gunman, Joseph Mostrales.

A Philippine Military Academy (PMA) Class ’82 graduate and one of the original founding members of the YOU, Cardeno, witnesses claimed, ordered Cervantes’ killing for reportedly knowing too much about the alleged rightist plot to topple the Arroyo administration.

The Philippine National Police dismissed Cardeno from the service and ordered his arrest immediately after he was indicted in the Cervantes slay case.

After several efforts to arrest Cardeno failed, Malacañang formed a special police task force for this purpose headed by Maganto.

Maganto, on the other hand, claimed to be hot on the trail of both Cardeno and Camacho, whom Mostrales also said was one of those tapped by Cardeno to kill the YOU spokesman.

Maganto said it was likely that Bagulbagul was providing shelter to the fugitives.

"I don’t care if he has a string of criminal cases. In fact it’s natural for these people (Cardeno and Camacho) to get a bully to provide them a warehouse," Maganto said.

Bagulbagul died of at least three gunshot wounds, while Jimenez hemorrhaged after being hit in the chest and right arm, police said.

Meanwhile, the Cervantes family hailed the slain Jimenez as a hero.

"He died a hero. He gave his life to help bring justice to crime victims in the country," Cervantes’ father, Rac, said in a text message.

Maganto said another task force member, PO1 Ray Lagdamen, died in a vehicular accident last month while conducting surveillance work in Laguna. – Jaime Laude, Nikko Dizon, Rene Alviar

  • Latest
  • Trending
Are you sure you want to log out?

Philstar.com is one of the most vibrant, opinionated, discerning communities of readers on cyberspace. With your meaningful insights, help shape the stories that can shape the country. Sign up now!

or sign in with