PNP officer who defended Siocon feted
- Christina Mendez () - June 12, 2003 - 12:00am
A 27-year-old police senior inspector, who led a small group of policemen in a nine-hour gun battle with some 150 Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) guerrillas in Siocon, Zamboanga del Norte last month, will be awarded the Medalya ng Kagitingan (Medal of Valor), the highest award for gallantry and heroism.

Senior Inspector Ranie Planilla Hachuela, group director of the 903rd Provincial Mobile Group stationed in Kayatian Hill in Siocon, will receive the award from President Arroyo upon the recommendation of Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Director General Hermogenes Ebdane Jr.

Hachuela, a graduate of Philippine National Police Academy (PNPA) Class 1997, will be cited for "conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of life" when he led policemen in defending Siocon town and rescuing the town mayor and his family while fighting off the MILF rebels and Abu Sayyaf.

Thirteen of the attackers, reportedly led by Jairullah Hassan, alias Commander Hairon of the MILF, were killed during the almost nine-hour running gunbattle around the town which ended late in the morning of May 4.

Eleven government troops and 12 civilians were killed in the rampage. The rebels also burned down the town’s public market and took several residents hostage as they escaped to nearby Sibuco town.

Some of the responding government troops were ambushed by the guerrillas while on their way to reinforce the defending policemen.

Even after running low on ammunition while awaiting reinforcements, Hachuela managed to rally his men in putting up stiff resistance, thwarting the wave of attacks by MILF rebels attempting to overrun the town hall, police station and the municipal hospital.

PNP community relations chief Director Ricardo de Leon said he was moved by Hachuela’s narration of how he was able to put up stiff resistance with only 15 of them against the numerically superior MILF rebels.

Hachuela noted that the government side was clearly undermanned and each of them was armed only with an M-16 rifle and limited ammunition.

De Leon said Hachuela had enough presence of mind and the leadership necessary to turn the events in their favor.

"We would like him (Hachuela) to share his thoughts of valor, because that is the direction of the PNP chief to the police, to bring back the valor and glory to the police force," De Leon said.

Hachuela, for his part, said he is giving back the honor to the PNP and six of his colleagues who were killed in the encounter with the rebels. "This is part of the job. At that time, you only think about how you can defend yourself and your people. It was a matter of life and death," he said.

Hachuela is the fourth police officer to receive the prestigious award since the PNP’s inception in 1991. Police Officer 1 (PO1) Rodelio Caballes was the first to be awarded for single-handedly fighting off a large formation of New People’s Army (NPA) rebels in Agusan del Sur in October 1992.

Two police officers — Inspector Nestor Salvador and Senior Police Officer 4 (SPO4) Roberto Gutierrez — of the Makati police bomb squad, were posthumously awarded the Medal of Valor in 2001 after they were killed during the Rizal Day bombings in December 2000.

Under Republic Act 9049, the government grants a monthly lifetime gratuity of P20,000 to all Medal of Valor awardees. Likewise, their dependents are entitled to scholarship, medical benefits and preferential consideration to appointment in government service.

Hachuela, a loving husband to wife Jane and proud father of three children, admitted he really wanted to become a mechanical engineer.

He said financial difficulties prompted him to take up an accountancy course then later decided to become a cop.

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