Caloocan City exec escapes ambush
July 15, 2005 Updated 11:25pm (Mla time) Nancy C. Carvajal Inquirer News Service
AN OFFICIAL of the Caloocan City government survived an ambush and even managed to kill one of his alleged assailants shortly before noon yesterday, the police said.
Alfonso Sta. Maria, head of the Caloocan City Department of Public Safety and Traffic Management (DPSTM) as well as the Environmental Sanitation Services (ESS), escaped unhurt with two companions.
However, a tricycle driver was wounded when he was hit by a stray bullet.Sta. Maria told reporters that he and his companions were on their way to the office of ESS at about 11:30 a.m. when four men on two motorcycles shot at them along Biglang Awa Street.
100 meters from office He said they were about 100 meters away from the ESS office when the four men appeared behind his Nissan X-trail. One tandem drove ahead of them and tried to block their path as the other opened fire at them, hitting the sport utility vehicle's back window. Sta. Maria said he maneuvered his vehicle and bumped one of the motorcycles, throwing two of the attackers onto the ground. The two attackers ran away but Sta. Maria got out of his vehicle and opened fire at them, hitting one of the gunmen in the back of the head and killing him on the spot. The three other assailants fled. In the exchange of fire, a bullet hit a tricycle driver who was eating lunch at an eatery.
Sta. Maria said that he told his companions to take the gun of the fallen gunman to make sure that he would not be able to fire again.
Shooting practice pays off
"My shooting practice paid off, but I'm still bewildered of the events," the official said.
He added that he could be the one who wounded the bystander.
"My staff brought the wounded man to the hospital and he is OK," Sta. Maria said.
He related that before proceeding to his office, he went to a bank in the area to drop off some papers. "I came from a bank but I did not have a big amount of money with me," Sta. Maria said. Police said the dead gunman was wearing a bull cap, denims, a gray polo shirt and brown rubber shoes, and was not carrying any identification cards. Found on him was a cell phone, an undetermined amount of cash in different denominations, and a broken pair of sunglasses. City police chief Supt. Leo Garra said they were still looking into possible motives in the slay try.
"It could be professional, political or a robbery attempt since today is payday," Garra said.
As DPSTM head, Sta. Maria's main job is to enforce peace and order with the local police and to ensure the smooth flow of traffic in the city.
A person close to Sta. Maria said Mayor Enrico Echiverri also trusted the DPSTM head in handling local government programs, such as contracts on garbage collection and some infrastructure projects.
For his part, Sta. Maria said he could not imagine why anyone would want to harm him. "I have not received a single threat and my job is to help improve the lives of residents by making sure of their safety," he said. He pointed out that he would act on requests or complaints of residents no matter how trivial these were.
According to an intelligence officer, the DPSTM chief could have been a victim of the "Enduro Gang," a robbery group operating in the area. The officer said it appeared that the gunmen could have followed Sta. Maria from the bank but did not know who he really was. He added that robberies were rampant in the area, usually victimizing Filipino-Chinese businessmen, who do not report such incidents to the police.