This possibility is being seriously considered by investigators looking into the ambush slaying of San Miguel intelligence officer PSMS John de la Cruz Teston last Feb. 1, 2022 while on the mission to serve arrest warrants on two wanted men in sitio Tucao, barangay Juan M. Alberto.
According to sources familiar to the probe, it is likely that the team received information from someone in the hinterland village regarding the presence of the wanted men prior to its decision to proceed that morning.
Troops of the Philippine Army who conducted the clearing operation of the mountainous area sometime after noon reportedly concluded that the communist guerillas were already in their ambush position hours before Teston and five other lawmen arrived in the barangay.
About 15 ambushers had lain in wait at a relatively flat area on the mountain along the road leading to the barangay, as evidenced by empty cans and dropped rice grains as well as trampled vegetation, a source told the Tribune.
A briefing was reportedly held at the police station before Teston and his team set off for Tucao on board several motorcycles at about 5 AM, reaching Pagsangahan after about 15 to 20 minutes on the paved highway.
From there, they turned left towards Tucao which is about 6.8 kilometers through a mix of rough dirt roads and concrete pavement, taking another 15 minutes.
When they arrived at the village, the team proceeded to locate their targets: Mark Anthony Tevar, described as an “other wanted person” facing a trial for violation of Section 77 of Presidential Decree 705 (Forestry Reform Code); and the No. 1 Provincial Most Wanted Person, Robert Domingo, who is facing 25 counts of rape before the Regional Trial Court.
The two wanted men, however, were not at their homes, with Teston and his men passing by the house of barangay captain Jessie Tapanan for a cup of coffee.
After a passenger jeepney bound for Pagsangahan passed by, the team boarded their motorcycles, with PSMS Teston in the lead, and set off in pursuit of the jeepney, intending to use the latter as some kind of protection from any ambush.
As PSMS Teston cleared the spillway and negotiated the dirt road up a slight incline about 20 meters ahead, suspected New People’s Army rebels who had the team in sight the whole time fired at the police officer.
When the trailing members of the team saw their leader fall under the hail of bullets, they got off or let their motorcycles fall on the road, scrambling for cover.
Two of them managed to read the barangay captain’s house while two or three others sought cover below the bank of the nearby stream.
Until now it is not certain if the five survivors managed to fire back at their attackers, who had riddled their motorcycles with bullets and then climbed down to make sure PSMS Teston was dead before taking his gun, wallet, cellphone and the two arrest warrants.
It is claimed that passengers of the jeepney witnessed the incident, with the vehicle stopping about 200 meters away.
A blocking force composed of five guerillas allegedly dressed in Army fatigues were seen by the passengers as they traveled on to Pagsangahan.
None of those on board apparently took steps to inform the police authorities in San Miguel población.
It was only when a resident of Tucao took the chance of going out of the barangay about four hours later when the police station learned of the incident at 11:37 AM.
A convoy of police vehicles, including an ambulance, went to Pagsangahan by noon, proceeding slowly as Army troopers cleared the road ahead for any sign of the ambushers or a blocking force.
Information reaching the Tribune claimed that no less than Catanduanes Police Provincial Director Col. Benjamin Balingbing Jr. was with the convoy.
The responding police and Army personnel found PSMS Teston and his motorcycle sprawled across the road while his four companions – PSSg Jorge Talan, PCpl Lito Sadueste, PCpl Jonathan Colinares, Pat. Joshua Pastorpede and Pat. John Julius Comendador – were later rescued at the house of the village chief.
Recovered at the scene was an empty shell for a Cal. 7.62mm rifle, 12 empty shells for a Cal. 5.56mm M-16 rifle along with two bullets of the same caliber.
The police is continuing its investigation of the incident and conducting follow-up operations to identify the suspects and apprehend them. It is likewise looking at the connection of the two wanted men with the armed group.
Bicol Police Regional Director BGen. Jonnel Estomo strongly condemned the perpetrators for their cowardice and lack of respect for authority, noting that the San Miguel police personnel were just performing their duty to enforce the law.
In extending their commiseration to the bereaved family of PSMS Teston, the police leadership vowed to bring those involved in his death to justice and sought the help of the public in achieving a quick resolution to the incident.
Last Feb. 3, BGen. Estomo sent Deputy Regional Director for Administration PCol. David Peredo Jr. to personally extend the police organization’s deepest sympathies to the slain lawman’s family.
Describing Teston as a dedicated officer who genuinely cared for his men, Col. Peredo posthumously awarded him the PNP Heroism Medal “for his unwavering display of dedication to duty” during the San Miguel incident.
“His courage and supreme sacrifice are clear manifestations of the highest form of service and deep devotion to his sworn duties as police officer worthy of praise and pride of the Philippine National Police,” said the citation.
PSMS Teston, who left behind his wife Jing and four sons, would have turned 41 years old this Feb. 18, 2022. He would be laid to rest this Wednesday, Feb. 9, 2022.
An undisclosed amount of financial assistance was also given by the Bicol PNP to Teston’s widow, as the slain cop’s father, retired police officer and now Bato municipal councilor Reynato Teston Sr., stood nearby.
Three of the elder Teston’s children, including a woman, are also police officers assigned at the San Miguel MPS, Virac MPS and in Metro Manila.