By: Jennifer P. Rendon and Glazyl Y. Masculino
TWO suspected illegal drug personalities were shot in Iloilo province and Bacolod City on Sept 6, 2019, the day PNP Director General Oscar Albayalde visited Western Visayas for the PNP Police Service Anniversary.
James “Jaguar” Balsomo I, secretary of the Sangguniang Bayan of Sara, Iloilo and resident of Barangay Antonio-Yusay in said town, was wounded after he allegedly traded bullets with police officers during a buy-bust operation right in front of the municipal hall 12 p.m. Friday.
Police Major Jonathan Pinuela, chief of the Iloilo Police Provincial Office Provincial Drug Enforcement Unit (IPPO-PDEU), alleged that Balsomo took over the illegal drug operations in Iloilo’s fifth district after the fall of the Banda and Balume Drug Groups.
As an alleged drug group leader, Pinuela said Balsomo did not normally deal with buyers.
But Pinuela said Balsomo might have taken exception to their transaction because the amount involved was P50,000.
An asset allegedly contacted Balsomo until they agreed on a time, date, and place.
“After the transaction was consummated, he apparently had an idea that he was dealing with police operatives,” Pinuela said.
Balsomo took the money, went back to his car, and turned around. He then faked to hail his vehicle “until we heard gunfire,” Pinuela said.
A police officer quickly tackled Balsomo and grappled for the latter’s caliber .45 handgun.
Pinuela said another officer shot Balsomo and hit him thrice on the chest.
He was brought to Sara District Hospital and later transferred to Iloilo Doctors’ Hospital.
Police recovered Balsomo’s gun and five sachets of suspected shabu.
Balsomo has always been the subject of police operations as he is considered a high-value target (HVT) level 2 drug personality.
He is also on the PNP Directorate for Intelligence (DI) list and had been a subject of Oplan Tokhang.
On Aug 17, 2917, police searched Balsomo’s house and recovered ammunitions for M16 and M14 Armalite rifles, and caliber .45 and caliber .9mm pistols but he was not arrested.
In Bacolod City, an alleged high value target drug personality was killed after he reportedly resisted police operatives during a buy-bust at Barangay Vista Alegre on Friday.
Police identified the fatality as Billy Bantayanon, 34, of Barangay 28 here.
Operatives of the Regional Drug Enforcement Unit (RDEU)-6 led by Police Lieutenant Thurslie Castillo conducted the operation against Bantayanon at the said village around 10:40 a.m.
But during the operation, Bantayanon allegedly fired his gun at the operatives when he sensed that he was transacting with cops in the middle of a sugarcane field.
Police Major Sherlock Gabana, head of Police Station 7, said police officers returned fire and hit the suspect’s chest.
Authorities recovered from the scene four .45-caliber bullet casings and the suspect’s motorcycle.
Also recovered from his possession were 75 grams of suspected shabu worth P225,000, the P10,000 marked money, and P1,986 cash.
Gabana said the recovered bullets will be subjected to ballistic tests.
Bantayanon will also be subjected for autopsy to determine the injuries he suffered in the shootout.
Gabana said Bantayanon was allegedly connected to Ricky Serenio, who was killed by unidentified assailants at Barangay Pahanocoy over the weekend.
However, he said that they have yet to determine if Serenio was a source or client of Bantayanon.
Serenio was earlier tagged as Negros Island’s top drug personality after confessing to being the bagman of Berya drug group here.
Gabana also said that Bantayanon was just recently released from jail for his drug offense.
“He immediately returned to the illegal drug trade after he got out of jail,” Gabana said.