By Roel Amazona and Lizbeth Ann Abella

HONORED. Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Gen. Benjamin Acorda Jr. (center) bestows a posthumous award on one of the three police officers killed during an encounter in Santa Margarita, Samar. Acorda honored the slain and wounded police officers during his visit in Calbayog City, Samar, on Friday (Feb. 2, 2024) (PNA photo by Roel Amazona)

CALBAYOG CITY, Samar – Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Gen. Benjamin Acorda Jr. on Friday honored the police officers killed and wounded during the January 30 shootout with members of a criminal group in Santa Margarita, Samar.

Acorda posthumously awarded the three police officers who died in the firefight with the Ampoan criminal group in Mahayag village in Santa Margarita town.

Killed during the clash were Staff Sgt. Christian Tallo and Corporal Eliazar Estrelles Jr. of the PNP 1st Samar Provincial Mobile Force Company, and Master Sgt. Paul Terence Paclibar of the PNP Regional Mobile Force Battalion.

“Although this is part of our profession, we are saddened by what happened to our police officers. We are very proud of their heroism and courage,” Acorda told reporters.

The families of the fallen officers received the Medalya ng Kadakilaan (PNP Heroism Medal), the highest honor bestowed by the PNP.

Meanwhile, injured police officers – Corporals Rannel Pedamato and Mark Jason Sixta, and Patrolmen Ham Kritnere Capalis and Mark Redoblado – were awarded with Medalya ng Sugatang Magiting (PNP Wounded Personnel Medal) when Acorda visited them at St. Camillus Hospital in this city.

Kin of those killed and the wounded police personnel also received cash assistance from the PNP.

“My order to the Police Regional Office 8 is to run after the members of the criminal group, and there should be no letup of police operations against them. They should not have a place here in our region,” Acorda said.

He said members of the criminal group act as gun-for-hire and private armies in some parts of Samar province.

The village in Mahayag has been identified as their hideout, which is about 20 kilometers away from the town center.

On January 30, police operatives were about to serve a warrant of arrest on the gang leader and two members who are facing murder charges when a shootout ensued.

Lawmen nabbed four suspects after the firefight but the gang leader and two others escaped. (PNA)