BY MARTIN A. SADONGDONG
Police are now hot on the trail of suspected communist rebels who shot dead a cop in an ambush in Marabut, Samar on Thursday.
General Debold Sinas, chief of the Philippine National Police (PNP), mobilized all the tactical and maneuver forces in Eastern Visayas on a province-wide manhunt for the suspects who are responsible for the killing of Police Corporal Earl Hembra, of the Marabut municipal police station.
Hembra and Patrolman Joseph Ricky Gadores Gacgacao and Cpl. Jerome Distrajo were escorting inmate Nestor Lumagbas Jr. back to the police station after attending a court hearing in Basey, Samar when they were waylaid by the suspects in Barangay Logero at 12:56 p.m.
The policemen traded shots with an undetermined number of gunmen until Hembra was hit by a fatal shot in the body.
The suspects escaped after the shootout, the police said.
Meanwhile, Lumagbas was also hit and rushed to a nearby hospital for treatment.
“We mourn the loss of another brother-in-arms, Police Corporal Earl Hembra who offered the supreme sacrifice in the service of our country and people. His death came while performing his duty as an officer of the law,” Sinas said.
“The PNP joins the Filipino civil society in strongest condemnation of this latest manifestation of disregard for human life by the communist New People’s Army,” he added.
Police Brigadier General Ronaldo de Jesus, Eastern Visayas PNP regional director, said police maneuver units from the Samar Police Provincial Office and Regional Mobile Force Battalion were deployed in the surrounding areas in search of the suspects.
Investigators have yet to establish the motive behind the attack although one angle being considered now is the attempt by the NPA to free Lumagbas.
Lumagbas, according to police, is a former militiaman facing a rape charge.
Sinas ordered the Eastern Visayas police to tighten security on Lumagbas while he is recuperating in an undisclosed hospital. (Martin A. Sadongdong)