By Aaron Recuenco and Nonoy Lacson
Government anti-narcotics agents killed on Monday night a police colonel in a buy-bust in Dipolog City in Zamboanga del Norte, the highest police official killed so far since the Philippine National Police (PNP) stepped up its campaign against lawmen involved in illegal drugs trade.
Senior Supt. Romeo Caramat, commander of the PNP’s anti-scalawag unit Counter-Intelligence Task Force (CITF), said suspect, Supt. Santiago YlananRapiz,led a very “colorful” life as he was linked to some notorious drug personalities in Western Visayas.
Rapiz, who has a rank roughly equivalent to lieutenant colonel in the military, used to serve as chief of police and handled several positions in the police force of Negros Occidental.
He died on the spot after allegedly engaging a police poseur-buyer in a drug-bust in Dipolog City at around 8 p.m. on Monday. Seized from him were several sachets of shabu and a .45 pistol.
Caramat said the operation stemmed from a report that Rapiz was a ‘ninja’ cop who was recycling illegal drugs they confiscated in drug operations.
“His involvement in illegal drug activities was confirmed in the affidavit of Ricky Sereno, an illegal drug personality who was arrested by PDEA (Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency) agents in Negros Occidental in January last year,” said Caramat.
The official said Rapiz was one of the police officers being given protection money for their illegal drug activities.
Rapiz was allegedly receiving drug protection money in the amount of P700,000 weekly.
During the drug-bust that resulted in his death, Rapiz was reportedly selling some P50,000 worth of illegal drugs to a police poseur-buyer.
“The suspect sensed that he was transacting with a police poseur buyer after receiving the buy bust money and tried to escape. He was cornered by arresting elements,” a CITF report read.
“However, instead of surrendering, he opted to draw his firearm and fired towards the arresting elements prompting the latter to retaliate that caused his death,” it added.
Rapiz was the logistics officer of the Zamboanga del Norte provincial police at the time of his death.
“He has been monitored to be active in illegal drug activities during his stint as COP in several towns and component cities in the Province of Negros Occidental and in Bacolod City. He was either protecting those illegal drugs personalities or he himself was responsible in distribution of illegal drugs,”Caramat said.
Rapiz was also tagged as a protector of Melvin Odicta, an alleged drug lord based in Iloilo City who was gunned down with his wife after meeting police officials at Camp Crame when their name surfaced in the drug list of President Duterte.
Police director for Zamboanga peninsula Chief Supt Emmanuel Luis D. Licup revealed that a total of 31 PNP personnel assigned to PRO-9 tested positive for illegal drug use during the conduct of random drug testing while 11 others were arrested in anti-drug operations since January this year.
The PNP-Counter-Intelligence Task Force (CITF) has already neutralized three PNP personnel involved in illegal drugs activities during its two legitimate operations in Zamboanga Peninsula.
On August 18, 2018, two policemen were killed in a shootout with operatives of PNP-CITF. They were Police Officer 3 Ronald Bernardo and Police Officer 2 Ma. Oliver Olaso, both assigned with the Station Drug Enforcement Team of Zamboanga City Police Office’s Police Station 9 and Supt Rapiz.
Nearly 100 cops were already arrested by the CITF since its creation in February last year. At least seven cops were also killed but the death of Rapiz makes him the highest police official killed in drug operations.