We ring in the new year with fireworks and torotot to ward off evil spirits so that the coming year will be a great and prosperous one for all of us. Even before midnight, fireworks can already be heard in preparation for the main event. As soon as the clock strikes 12, people get to feast their eyes on the wonderful fireworks shows all over the country. The cacophony of fireworks everywhere is to bring as much luck as possible so that we can face the new year head-on.
However, amid what was supposed to be a joyous occasion, it became deadly as a councilman would end up being shot dead right in front of his family. What made things interesting was how the killer was caught on camera; thus, capturing the moment seconds before the victim’s death.
The chilling photo would end up being spread everywhere, which shows how anything can literally happen at any time… only this time, it was caught on camera, forever immortalized in a picture.
The 35-year-old councilman from Caloocan city, Reynaldo Dagsa, asked his family to wake him up before midnight so that he could join in on the new year festivities and revel in the wonder of the fireworks around them. He was taking pictures of his wife, daughter, and mother-in-law outside their home on New Year’s Day when gunman, Arnel Buenaflor, came from behind a car and shot Dagsa. Two shots were done and Dagsa ended up getting hit on his right forearm and in the chest. Dagsa was able to snap a photo of his family seconds before Buenaflor pulled the trigger on him.
“While he was taking the picture of his family on New Year’s Day, the killer appeared and inadvertently, he took the picture of the killer with the gun aimed at him,” said then police chief Jude Santos.
There were two suspected accomplices, one of which was also in the background of the photo (eventually identified to be Rommel Oliva), and Michael Gonzalez (a.k.a. Michael Rollon).
As seen in the photo, Buenaflor was wearing a baseball hat and had his gun aimed at Dagsa while another man in another corner of the photo was identified to be his lookout. The family members were not able to hear the gunshot because of the fireworks going off around them. All they were able to see was Dasa falling to the ground. He was rushed to the hospital but it was too late.
The men behind the act were seeking revenge as Dagsa ordered their arrest the year before for car theft.
“Ganti. Binaril niya ako sa ulo eh. Ayos lang, may kasalanan siya sa akin eh,” according to Buenaflor.
After being out on bail, they continued to be known as car thieves and holdappers. The criminals were known in their area for the serial acts they have been committing. Michael Gonzales, one of the accomplices, even went by the alias “Fubo of Fish Pond Area 1.”
Dagsa’s death became part of a series of violent shootings that have been apparent in the Philippines wherein firearms were easily available on legal and black markets.
Dagsa was said to be targeted for assassination because of his efforts in neutralizing street gangs and syndicates. Arnel Buenaflor was an infamous gun shooter in the area and had a lot of support from his gang called “Pasaway Gang.” This gang had a backer who could finance their activities, and even, had the guts to go head-to-head with Dagsa. The financiers were said to be acting upon the orders of a “top man” which was why they continued to supply the gang with money, guns, and a list of their targets for assassination.
Dagsa had apparently angered Buenaflor when he stood as the principal witness against the latter and Gonzalez in the case of attempted murder. However, while Buenaflor’s motive for the killing may have been due to personal grudges, the syndicate financiers and the “top man” had their own motives as well against Dagsa—that is why these financiers continued to support Pasaway Gang’s illegal activities.
According to Arnel’s aunt, Lulu Buenaflor, months before his nephew shot Dagsa, Arnel and Dagsa had been in a shootout. Arnel was already about to surrender when his gun jammed. Instead of arresting Arnel, Dagsa’s men went on to maul him and shoot him in the head. Arnel was able to survive his injuries, and after recovering, he planned his revenge.
Buenaflor was arrested from his hiding place in Barangay Kalabasa in Aurora, Isabel. He arrived at the Caloocan City Police Station early in the morning, but before he arrived, he was presented by police officials to the media. He was seen to be wearing the same hat he was wearing when he shot Dagsa. He was ordered to pose for the cameras and act as if he was aiming a gun at someone.
The lookouts, Oliva and Gonzalez (or Rollon), were eventually arrested as well. The authorities were also looking into the possibility that Buenaflor may have been involved in other cases of murder in the CAMANAVA (Caloocan, Malabon, Navotas, and Valenzuela) area.
The arrest of Buenaflor was largely due to the use of information technology because the authorities were able to get several mobile phone numbers and used each one to trace his whereabouts. These phone numbers were taken from those that Buenaflor knew personally.
The authorities were also able to work with the bus company; thus, they were able to pinpoint which bus unit, seat number, and location Buenaflor were going. They, then, immediately informed local authorities and asked for the coordination of at least three town mayors and several barangay officials on top of a province-wide manhunt operation against Buenaflor.
The police were able to contact a friend of Buenaflor’s live-in partner, Loraine Castro. She was a guest relations officer in a beerhouse in Aurora. The police went directly to her manager to ask about Buenaflor.
“Na-pressure ang manager na ituro kung nasaan ang kasamang lalaki ni Loraine.”
They were directed to a room in which Buenaflor was renting. He was even the one who opened the door for the authorities upon knocking. He surrendered successfully to the police.
Dagsa was a member of the Barangay Peacekeeping Action Team that aggressively sought to reduce crime in their area. He was described to be “hardworking” and “very active” in his efforts in maintaining the peace as well as how efficient he was in managing the disasters and emergencies in his area.
Dagsa’s funeral was met with military honors as he was a member of the Army Reserve Command. He was recognized for his efforts in peacekeeping in his barangay.
A gun salute was done by a 7-man team in honor of Dagsa. A Philippine flag was draped over Dagsa’s coffin prior to the gun salute.
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