Written by Miriam P. Aquino, PIA
SAN FERNANDO CITY, La Union, Jan.11 (PIA) – A shooting encounter between the Pangasinan Provincial Public Safety Company (PPSC) and suspects of a gun-for-hire group believed to be operating in the 5th and 6th districts of Pangasinan took place on Friday, January 7, about 7:45 p.m. at Barangay San Mariano, Santa Maria, Pangasinan and resulted to the death of PO2 Roderick Ballesca and wounded PO3 Sherwin Cuenta.
Meanwhile, one of the suspects named Larry Garasin, a native of Ilocos Norte, presently residing in San Nicolas town in Pangasinan was wounded and arrested during the encounter.
His companion, one Nelson Navarro, a barangay kagawad of Barangay San Mariano in Santa Maria town was also nabbed at his residence after a hot pursuit operation.
The two wounded police officers were rushed to the Eastern Pangasinan District Hospital in Tayug town, but PO2 Ballesca was declared dead on arrival. Garasin was brought to the Sacred Hospital in Urdaneta City but was later transferred to the region 1 Medical Center in Dagupan City.
Another suspect, Caesar Vergara, was arrested before dawn of Saturday (January 8) at Barangay East Poblacion, Umingan, Pangasinan during a follow-up operation by police intelligence personnel, while another one remains at-large.
The police recovered a total of 11 empty shells of caliber .45 and one deformed slug from the crime scene. Likewise, two unregistered motorcycles, a blue Honda Wave 125, and a blue Euro 110, believed to have been used by the suspects, were recovered and brought to the PPSC headquarters in Tayug, Pangasinan.
A murder case was filed against Navarro, Garasin, Vergara, and a certain Rey Sobrera (who is still at-large), for the killing of PO2 Ballesca before RTC Branch 53, Rosales, Pangasinan under Criminal Case Nr 5642-R. A case for frustrated murder for wounding of PO3 Cuenta is also being prepared for filing against the suspects. In-depth investigation is on-going to identify and arrest other members of the group.
Meanwhile, Police Chief Superintendent Franklin Jesus B. Bucayu, head of Police Regional Office 1 (PRO1), cited the bravery of PO3 Cuenta and PO2 Ballesca, even as he reiterated his earlier directive to intensify PRO1’s campaign against guns-for-hire and other criminal elements following the rise of incidents involving motorcycle-riding criminals in the area. (PIA-La Union, with reports from Police Regional Office 1)