By Ali G. Macabalang
COTABATO CITY – This city’s former police director-turned- public safety office head was killed while his escort was wounded when armed men attacked them along a busy street junction here on Saturday morning, March 19.
Retired police colonel Rolen Balquin and his escort, Master Sergeant Ariel Gutang, had just alighted from their car in front of a newly-opened commercial establishment here around 9:00 a.m. when two armed men approached, opened fire and fled casually, according to initial investigations.
Both victims were rushed to a hospital. But Balquin was declared dead-on-arrival due to fatal wounds in the head and torso, while Gutang was in critical condition, published reports said.
Responding investigators recovered at the crime scene spent shells from .45 caliber pistols.
Balquin was one of invited guests in the new business firm opened along corner Sinsuat and Macapagal streets, one of the city’s busiest road sections here, witnesses said.
Before his retirement from police service and appointment as head of the city government’s public safety office a few years ago, Balquin had served as city police director until June 2015. He belonged to the Philippine Military Academy Class of 1987.
The local business sector and other concerned quarters had credited Balquin’s services in the city hall’s campaign to make the city “investment friendly,” it was learned.
In a statement, City Mayor Cynthia Guiani-Sayadi strongly condemned the killing of Balquin, who she described as a trusted friend and subordinate.
“We may lay Colonel Balquin to rest but we will not rest until you are captured…To all our fellow Cotabateños, let us fight against all this lawlessness. Let us fight for Cotabato City,” the mayor was quoted as saying.
Police investigators said Balquin’s family had not received any prior threats against him.
South Cotabato-based lawyer-journalist Berteni Cataluña Causing expressed surprise about Saturday’s incident.
Causing said Balquin was his client in a legal battle stemming from a suit filed by his wife. He did not elaborate on the nature of the suit.
Incumbent City Police Director Col. Rommel Javier was quoted as telling a recent peace and order council meeting here that 125 crimes were recorded in the first quarter of this year, surpassing 114 cases logged in the first quarter of 2021.
Balquin was one of key city hall officials slain so far.
On May 25, 2020, Anecito “Boy” Rasalan, the executive secretary and spokesperson for Mayor Sayadi, was shot to death while taking his breakfast in an eatery along Notre Dame Avenue here.
Razalan’s slay has remained unresolved. (AGM)