By Jennifer P. Rendon
A police officer was killed in a gunfight with members of the New People’s Army (NPA) afternoon of Feb. 12, 2020.
Police Captain Efren Espanto, team leader of the Reconnaissance Company of the Regional Mobile Force Battalion 6, succumbed to a gunshot injury on his head during an armed encounter at Barangay Aglobong, a hinterland village some 25 kilometers away from Janiuay town proper in Iloilo.
The 29-year old Espanto led a 22-person team of the RMFB-6 Recon Company based in PD Monfort North, Dumangas, Iloilo City.
They were conducting a combat operation in the area when they encounter an undetermined number of rebels around 5:45 p.m.
Delima said the suspects are members of the NPA’s Komiteng Rehiyon Panay – Central Front Committee led by Karl Teodosio alias Andoy/Obet
Another RFMB-6 team was also deployed in the area when the incident happened.
But Captain Dadje Delima, Janiuay police chief, said that the other team was a kilometer away from the other team when the encounter happened.
The other team was led by Captain Jerome Manahan, Espanto’s classmate at the Philippine National Police Academy (PNPA) Class 2015.
Delima said it took some time for the other team to respond because the area was a “dead spot.”
Delima said he only knew of the incident around 6:30 p.m. but the local police could not respond to the report as they might get ambushed by the NPA’s blocking team.
The team left Janiuay town proper at 12 a.m.
“We didn’t know that Capt. Espanto was killed,” he said.
Espanto’s teammates also didn’t know that he was already dead.
“They might have thought that he sought cover when the fire fight happened,” Delima said.
The exchange of fire lasted for about 30 minutes. “It was a combination of exchange of heavy volume of gunfire and sporadic shots,” he said.
Espanto was able to put up a fight since he managed to spend all bullets in his rifle magazine. They only learned of his grim fate when Manahan stumbled upon his body around 3 a.m.
It was already dawn when operatives transported their comrade’s body to Federico Roman Tirador Sr. Memorial District Hospital.
Superiors and subordinates alike who knew Espanto said he was a dedicated policeman whose passion for service is beyond measure.
Captain Janvier Gilza, Espanto’s upperclassman, said he was a good man who instilled discipline in himself and his subordinates.
Both officers used to head the San Remigio Police Station in Antique province.
Espanto was from La Carlota City, Negros Occidental but planned to settle in Iloilo after buying a property in Pavia town.
He and his wife have one child.
Meanwhile, the Police Regional Office 6 (PRO-6) lamented Espanto’s death.
The agency also vowed to strengthen anti-insurgency efforts, along with other agencies of the government.
Hours after the incident, the NPA’s Coronaciok “Waling-Waling” Chiva Command hailed their troops for what they perceived was a successful offensive operation against Espanto’s team.
They claimed that one policeman was wounded, on top of Espanto getting killed.
But police records belied the rebels’ claim.
In a statement issued by its spokesperson Julio Montana, the NPA vowed to launch more tactical offensive operations.