IT was like a scene from the television series, ‘The Walking Dead.’
Twenty-eight-year-old alleged drug suspect Francisco Maneja Jr., alias ‘Jhay-R’, of Maria Orosa Street, Malate, Manila, turned media members covering his ‘death’ and that of his companion wide-eyed, as they saw him ‘resurrect’ after what police said was a shootout between the duo and lawmen.
Lying on his stomach, Maneja was being videoed by media members when a camera man saw his back moving slightly, up and down. The said camera man told police the alleged suspect was still breathing.
Moments later, Maneja turned on his back, sat against the rear tire of a parked car beside which he ‘laid dead’ a few seconds ago and then raised his bloodied hands in surrender. Amid gasps for breath, he asked to be brought to the hospital, saying he is wounded. I guess he was brought to the Ospital ng Maynila which was nearest to Aldecoa Street where he and his companion got shot.
Obviously, he played dead and just waited for the perfect timing to seek help because based on reports, he sustained bullet wounds in both hands. No fatal wound was mentioned.
Reports have it that Huggins and Maneja were shot dead at 12:30 a.m. allegedly also during a buy-bust operation. According to the police, the two were aboard a mobile tricycle ‘transacting’ a drug sale with poseur-buyer PO1 Orlando Gonzales, when they sensed that the latter was a cop.
Maneja, still according to the police, pushed the cop out of the tricycle when it reached Aldecoa Street near the service road of Roxas Boulevard and then fired shots but missed. Allegedly, the two sped away but were pursued by Gonzales. A shootout supposedly ensued, resulting in the instant death of Huggins.
Interestingly, I was passing by the area a bit after the incident. From the Harbor Square Complex at the CCP vicinity, I was cruising along the northbound lane of Roxas Boulevard and was supposed to turn right to Quirino Avenue but it was blocked. So I went straight ahead and was about to turn right to the service road fronting Aloha Hotel when a cop with a flashlight stopped me. He asked where I was going to and told him I would take the service road and then turn left to Quirino Avenue so I could head to Osmeña Highway. The cop, who looked like a rookie, very politely advised me to take another route instead.
I asked why as I noticed a mobile car blocking the street right beside Aloha Hotel while a number of people milled around it. I then said, ‘me relasyon ba sa ‘Oplan Tokhang’ ’yan? The cop merely said there was a ‘shooting incident.’
As I left the area, the look on the said cop’s face sort of stuck to my mind. He looked worried and confused. The following day, I found out what happened to Maneja. So I said to myself.. ‘Ah, that is the ‘because’…
I hope my cynic media colleagues are wrong. They were laughing off the incident and said it was possible that what happened to Maneja was a case of ‘salvage gone wrong.’
Some said that based on the stories relayed by those who filmed Maneja when he ‘came alive,’ he supposedly denied ownership of the gun and drugs supposedly recovered from them.
Talking among themselves, many of those covering the Manila Police District (MPD) beat are sort of sick and tired of stories about alleged drug suspects being killed in alleged drug operations.
This is because the stories are quite the same by the day. Police receive information about a drug suspect’s alleged activities and lay out an entrapment or buy-bust operation. During the said buy-bust, the suspect would sense he is talking to a cop, draws gun and then fires at the cop but misses. The poseur-buyer also pulls out his gun, fires and hits the suspect fatally. None of the cops ever suffered any injuries, not even graze wounds.
Not that my good colleagues would want to see cops get wounded. They just hope that all such drug operations are indeed, legitimate.
On my part, I would like to think and believe so too -- that all such operations are being done with regularity. I have been covering the Manila police beat for over a decade now and never have I encountered so many alleged drug-related killings.
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