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'Gun-for-hire' employed by Dipolog City government nabbed

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By Gualberto Laput (Rappler.com)

The arrested suspects are Crisanto Gulang – alias Maral – who is described as a 'freelance gun-for-hire' and drug pusher, and Jeanette Acevedo – alias Jingjing – who is also reportedly into the illegal drug trade

DIPOLOG CITY, Philippines – Combined operatives of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) arrested a known gun-for-hire and his live-in partner.

The two were reportedly employees of the Local Government of Dipolog, and their capture revived optimism among residents that unsolved killings happening in Dipolog City for more than 5 years will finally be resolved.

Agent Jury Rocamora, PDEA provincial head agent for Zamboanga del Norte, told Rappler on Monday morning, November 21, that his team and operatives from Dipolog Police Office, the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG), the Traffic Management Group (TMG), and the Philippine Army launched a "very tight drug buy-bust operation and serving of a search warrant" on November 19.

This was done all while knowing the suspects had deep connections with the local government and the police.

"We collected the cellphones of our operatives and we didn't reveal the identity of the subjects until our final briefing an hour before jump off," Rocamora said.

He said the arrested suspects were Crisanto Gulang – alias Maral – whom he described as a "freelance gun-for-hire" and drug pusher, and Jeanette Acevedo – alias Jingjing – who was also reportedly into the illegal drug trade.

Confiscated from Gulang were 2 grams of alleged "shabu", 50 grams of marijuana, drug paraphernalia, cash, a .45 caliber pistol, bullets for .45 caliber pistol and M16 rifle, and a hand grenade.

Dipolog City's assistant information officer, Eleonor Ruiz-Rabino, confirmed to Rappler that Gulang was member of the city's Team DAVID (Deployment Against Vices in Dipolog) while Acevedo was with the city's disaster reaction group.

However, Rabino said she could no longer be certain if Gulang was still connected with the city government after Team DAVID was disbanded last year.

Unsolved killings

In the past five years, unsolved killings happened in Dipolog and Sindangan Municipality that prompted Dipolog Bishop Severo Caermare to issue a pastoral letter last February 2015 condemning what he described as "extra-judicial killings."

The police was quiet regarding the number of unsolved killings. Sources from the Dipolog Diocese, however, said the "extra-judicial killings" in Dipolog and Sindangan could easily reach 200.

"And many times in Dipolog, the name Maral on a scooter motorcycle floats whenever a killing happens," the source said.

In 2013, then Justice Secretary Leila de Lima ordered the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to look into the spate of killings in Dipolog and other parts of the province.

Former agent-in-charge of NBI-Dipolog District, lawyer Sally Hans C. Barbaso admitted they their investigation was stalled until December 5, 2014, when a known drug pusher and police asset, Arthur Barbaso, was shot to death.

The victim's companion, Ronald Realiza - also an alleged drug pusher and police asset - sought NBI protection, claiming he saw Gulang shot the victim.

The NBI filed charges against Gulang, a police officer and 3 John Does but the case was heard by a prosecutor in neighboring Zamboanga Sibugay reportedly on orders of De Lima.

The prosecutor eventually dismissed the case against Gulang and the others.