Anti-drug cop’s widow wants to know truth about husband’s murder, seeks justice from Digong, PNP chief

May 21, 2017 - 11:41 AM
A photograph of PO2 Ernesto Turalba Jr. sits near his casket. His wife is asking the PNP chief to personally look into his case, citing holes in initial reports of how he was gunned down. BERNARD TESTA, INTERAKSYON

MANILA – Laura Turalba, 40, mother of two, does not trust anyone these days, and for a good reason: her husband, a police officer active in the anti-drugs campaign, was gunned down nearly two weeks ago, and the initial police and media reports of the ambush had glaring gaps.

She worries for her children and their future, but fears, as well, for what is truly happening — reflecting public apprehension over whether the war on drugs has unleashed other dark forces sabotaging the good intent of ridding the country of the scourge of drugs. Thus, she trusts no one, she says.

She is seeking the personal intercession of President Duterte and PNP chief Ronald ‘Bato’ dela Rosa.

Panawagan ko sana sa mahal na Pangulong Duterte at Chief PNP Ronald ‘Bato’ dela Rosa, bigyan ng pansin ang kaso ni PO2 Ernesto Turalba, para malinawan ang kaso. Mas nakakatakot ang panahon natin ngayon, natatakot ako sa iba pang mangyayari, kung hanggang kailan ito, mas lalo nakakatakot parang hindi na safe, nang mangyari ito sa asawa ko, hindi ko na alam kung kanino magtitiwala [I’m asking the President and PNP chief to look at my husband’s case, so the truth will come out about this. Our times are worrisome; I worry about what else could happen, till when this will last. It seems no longer safe. When this happened to my husband, I felt at a loss on who else to trust].”

Her husband PO2 Ernesto Turalba, Jr. was on his way to the Baras municipal police station where he works as an investigator and an intelligence officer, when he was ambushed by unidentified assailants, according to initial police reports.

The reports said Turalba and a certain PO2 Roberto Reganit, detailed at the Provincial Police Office (PPO) Intelligence/drug enforcement unit, were killed in a dimly lit part of the Zigzag road in Sitio Masikap, Brgy. Dalig, Antipolo City past 8 pm. on Wednesday, May 10.

Turalba died on the spot, but managed to fire his gun but it jammed, according to the wife, citing the police report. He was fired upon from behind, suggesting that the assailant or assailants were waiting for him to pass that area.

Other parts of the initial accounts have drawn the widow’s curiosity, however. Media reports said that the two were riding in tandem “magka-angkas’ before they were gunned down by assassins in motorbike.

PO2 Roberto Reganit, who died in the hospital later, had bullet wounds in the chest. If Reganit was riding in tandem (“naka-angkas”) with Turalba, why were Turalba’s wounds all in the back and Reganit’s all in front?

Moreover, said Turalba’s widow, her husband does not know Reganit as far as she knows, and he is not in the habit of allowing others to ride tandem on his motorbike.

Antipolo and Baras police are doing parallel investigations on the incident.

Who is PO2 Ernesto Turalba?

Laura said she met Ernie 8 years ago. He was introduced by a common friend during one of her visits to Camp 41-A, the PPO HQ in Taytay, Rizal.

“Nanligaw po siya, masigasig, makulit pero magalang, nagustuhan din po siya ng magulang ko [He courted me, he was persistent but polite; even my parents liked him].”

Ernie was the eldest of three, his siblings are Erwin and Eric.

The newly-weds started their family in Cainta, in the Turalba compound.

Turalba’s first assignment as a rookie cop was in Jala-Jala, Rizal.

He then spent two years with the Cainta police, then went into schooling to hone his skills and experience as an investigator at the PPO HQ in Taytay, Rizal.

Upon his death, he was the intelligence officer in Baras municipal police station. He was also an investigator, an anti-drug advocate, participating in every arrest and bust in Baras. He had so many cases in his hands, Laura told InterAksyon.

He was part of a unit which got a commendation for a major drug bust in 2014.

Recently he was part of a team that arrested an alleged big-time drug lord from Caloocan, who made Brgy. Pinugay in Baras his turf.

Ang alam ko po, itong huling huli, may umaarbor daw, hindi nila mapagbigyan, kasi na- challenge siya kesyo iyung tao daw kaya laging nakakalabas e maraming connection, siguro yung nasagasaan niya na taga Caloocan, doon sila nagtatago sa Pinugay, kilala po yun, may kaya po yun [As far as I know, in this latest case, someone was trying to intervene but the policemen did not oblige them. That person was apparently well-connected, from Caloocan and was hiding in Pinugay. That person was well-known].”

Mothers’ Day fete

According to Laura, Ernie was a good family man and a homebody. “He was a responsible and loving husband. Even on days we barely had money, he would find a way to at least buy the milk for our children” said Laura, speaking in Filipino. The couple had two children aged 7 and 3.

“He had a five-day workweek and two days off, during which we would often walk in the park. He preferred the park to the mall, which was a drain on our budget. Often we’d just buy fastfood and some small toys,” she recalled.

Minsan lumilipas ang maghapon na basta kasama lang niya kami ng mga bata, salu-salo kami sa pagkain at panonoorin niya sila Lebron James, e okay na [Sometimes the entire afternoon would pass with him enjoying it with me and the kids; we’d eat simply and he would then watch Lebron James play–that was okay for him].”

He had planned, for Mothers’ Day, to cook her favorite sinigang, “pero hindi na mangyayari yun, alam ko may sorpresa siya sa akin, bibili yan ng bulaklak [but that won’t happen now. I knew he’d surprise me with flowers too],” said Laura.

Fate against his will

Last Wednesday, May 10, was their last time together.

Two weeks before then, she already feeling anxious about several phone calls that proved to be death threats. “Two weeks ago medyo iba na pakiramdam ko, alam niya may threat na siya. Pinigilan ko siya pero sabi niya hindi pwede kasi hahanapin siya ng Boss niya si Maj. Christopher Cabugyan [I had this bad feeling two weeks ago, I knew he had threats. I tried to ask him to lie low, but he said his boss would look for him].”

She added, manifesting her suspicion over the initial reports on the circumstances of her husband’s death: “Si PO2 Reganit, hindi po niya kilala yun, hindi po siya nag-aangkas, malayung-malayo po, hindi po siya ganun [She doesn’t know PO2 Reganit. He’s not like that: he doesn’t just let anyone ride in tandem with him].”

“If this cop [Reganit] was riding behind him, why did he not have bullet wounds in the back? and my husband’s wounds were all in the back],” she noted, speaking partly in Filipino.

At this point the theories grow darker: “Some policemen said that other cop may have even been his hitman. Their assessment is that this guy was shooting at him, and when he approached, my husband managed to fire back [before his gun jammed], and that accounts for why the other cop’s wounds are in front.”

Baras police will conduct a follow-up after PO2 Turalba’s interment.

Laura’s battle

As a wife and a mother, she now shares the same pain with the rest of the widows and relatives of victims of the War on Drugs–whether from the side of civilians who lament the alleged summary executions or questioned accounts of the death of their kin, or policemen falling victim to violence as they fight drug lords and pushers.

Now Laura has a different war: “Masakit, mahirap sa aming mga asawa, ginampanan niya lang yung trabaho niya, ginawa niya nang tama tapos ‘yan pa ang nangyari sa kanya [It’s so hard for us, the widows. He was just doing his job, and doing it the right way, and this is what happens].”

She rued that her children lost their father at their tender age. “Hindi ko alam kung paano ako mag sisimula ulit, hindi ko alam kung maitataguyod ko sila, hindi ko alam kung paano ko sila palalakihin, pag aaaralin, papaano ko gagawin ito [I don’t know where to start again; I don’t know hos I can support them, raise them, send them to school. How do I do that]?”

Ernie left children, Keon, 7 years old and Princess, 3.

Teary-eyed but composed, she is asking the help of President Duterte and the Chief PNP to do something to once and for all give justice to her husband: “Wala po akong sinisisi, alam ko po masaya po siya sa trabaho niya [I don’t blame anyone; I know my husband loved his job].”

Keon Turalba, 7, playing next to his father’s casket, unmindful of the fact that his bemedalled father will not come back to life to be his superman, gives a snappy salute and declares, “mag pupulis po ako [I will be a policeman].”

PO2 Turalba Jr. will be laid to rest later on Sunday at the Cainta Catholic cemetery.