The son of suspended Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia yesterday said he feels his life is in danger after gunmen strafed the travel agency of a friend in Mandaue City close to midnight.
As police investigate what they call a possible “drama” and “isolated” attack, Pablo “Paulo” Garcia Codilla III deplored the action of the top police regional official who has recommended the revocation of his permit to carry firearms.
“I genuinely fear for my life, not only for me, but for my son and wife and the rest of my family,” said 33-year-old Paulo, who manages the family’s security agency, GGC Security Group.
“The very people who swore to protect us are the ones exposing us to lawless elements,” he added.
Two men on a motorcycle drove by the Black Panda Travel Tours owned by Tonyson Lee in S.B. Cabahug Street and opened fire shortly past midnight Friday, according to three witnesses.
Nobody was inside the building.
27 BULLET HOLES
The strafing let 27 bullet holes – three in a concrete post and the rest in the glass walls facing the street.
The assailants wore full-face helmets that covered their faces.
Sixteen empty shells of a 9 mm firearm were recovered on site by Scene of the Crime Operatives (SOCO).
Office employees told police that Lee and his family were out of the country and had left for abroad on December 26.
Lee was one of three men, along with Paulo Garcia and Joey Cal, who were named by police in direct assault charges filed this week for allegedly hitting the head of the ground commander Insp. Alvin Enguito, during a tense encounter on Dec. 19 at the Capitol where police dismantled tents used by supporters of Governor Garcia.
Paulo filed his own complaint of robbery for the seized tents against the top regional police commander and Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas, demanding P17 million in damages.
Chief Supt. Marcelo Garbo, chief of Police Regional Office (PRO-7), ordered his men to look at all angles of the strafing, including the possibility that it was a “drama”.
“This is the first time for this to happen to that agency. We are investigating that,” Garbo told reporters.
He dismissed suspicions that the attack was linked to angry police reactions over the assault of their ground commander in the Dec. 19 confrontation at the Capitol with Garcia supporters.
For the past ten days, suspended Governor Garcia has refused to leave her office in defiance of a penalty imposed by the Office of the President on an administrative case for usurping powers of the late vice governor Gregorio Sanchez Jr.
“Hindi mangyari na gumawa ang police….tingan natin sa video how unruly he (Paulo) was,” said Garbo.
In the Dec. 19 confrontation at the Capitol main gate, Codilla and his friends faced down uniformed policemen, demanding to know what authority they had to block the gate and remove the tents.
Garbo said the police investigation will consider actual evidence and not rely on speculation.
“All angles are being considered,” he said.
Garbo noted that Lee, the travel agency operator, was a member of Alpha Kappa Rho (Akrho), a fraternity linked to several bloody clashes with rival groups.
“We all know he’s a member of Akrho na naa sa listahan ng police watchlist”, said Garbo.
He said he received an incident report about the shooting by text past 12 midnight from the Mandaue police.
At the Capitol, Paulo said the strafing should be fully investigated.
He noted that the attack occurred right after Chief Supt. Garbo told reporters that the police would look deeper into the background of Codilla and his two friends as part of their “counter intelligence” measure.
“We are open to attack…my friend’s business was strafed. Good thing the caretaker was not there.”
“I thought ang among gibarugan ngari is political exercise, gihimo man hinoon personalan nga hasta naman ang among family business gi-apil of which wala ko kahibalo ngano (I thought we were taking a stand in a political exercise. They are making this personal now and involving our family business. I don’t know why.)
Paulo, who has remained close to his mother’s side since the suspension order was served by the DILG, said what he fears most is that he won’t be able to defend himself if he’s attacked.
He criticized Garbo’s move to revoke his firearm permit.
“That exposes us to the risk of lawless elements. It means we can now be attacked because we don’t have a right to carry guns.”
“I feel sorry for my friend… I also have to watch my back. They announced what kind of business the family has which which has been in existence for 20 years. So, delikado na pud diay akong kinabuhi ani,” he added.
Paulo said Thursday night’s strafing may have been a sample of things to come.
“Maybe something bad will happen to our family business,” he told reporters.
He mentioned that his US-based younger sister Carissa was the target of an online bully who threatened to “rape” and “kill” family members in his Twitter account.
Carissa tracked down the identity of the Internet user and posted online his name and Balamban town address to show she wasn’t intimidated.
Paulo appealed for “fair” play and said people should look at different sides of the conflict “before we make our judgments.”
He denied hitting Insp. Alvino Enguito during the tense encounter at the Capitol main gate last Dec. 19.
“I did not do anything. I did not touch him. The social media and everybody think that I did because there is an affidavit (from the police),” he said.
He said video footage would show he was far from Enguito when the incident occurred.
Three bystanders in Mandaue City said they saw the strafing of the Black Panda Travel Tours agency.
The motorcycle back rider took out a firearm and started shooting at random before speeding.
One witness, a Mandaue City government eco warden, said he first thought someone had lighted a Judas Belt firecracker.
On seeing the motorbike-riding pair, the three witnesses said they crouched down to avoid getting shot.
The three female employees in the agency told police they didn’t know of any reason for the attack as they weren’t aware of any conflict or enemies, they only gave good serve to their clients in processing visas, passports and tickets.
Chief Insp. Michael Anthony Bastes of the Mandaue police, said Black Panda Travel Tours opened few years ago based on initial queries. It was managed by Tonyson Lee until 2010 when his father Tony took over.
Bastes said the gunmen may have used a a highpower weapon like an Ingram or KG9.
“The perpetrators knew there was no one inside so there’s a big possibility the purpose was just to scare.”
“The shots were fired without aiming at anything.”
Senior Supt. Petronelli Baldebrin, Mandaue City police chief, said the incident was an isolated case. /by Carmel Loise Matus, Jucell Marie Cuyos and Chito O. Aragon