LAST week, the Pangasinan provincial police formed a special task force to conduct an investigation on the ambush of former Governor Amado Espino Jr. I know the man. Many Capampangans know him. To his friends in Pampanga and Angeles they never called him by his rank. He was simply Espines to them. So, when it was first heard on radio, and the initial report was sketchy, many of his friends prayed that he survived the dastardly attack by gunmen with their high powered firearms. And thank God he survived the ambush. That Wednesday afternoon ambush in San Carlos City wasn’t the first time Espino cheated death. He escaped death when he was Constabulary lieutenant in a close encounter with a dissident group. (He is a member of the Philippine Military Academy class of 1972) He was severely wounded. He was lucky enough that he was ferried by a helicopter piloted by then retired Philippine Air Force General Romeo David and was brought to the hospital. (I cannot recall what was the rank then of Romy David. And David became PAGCOR and Clark Development Corporation president when he retired from the service).
I met first Espines on the upper corridor of Philippine Constabulary building in Camp Olivas in the mid-seventies. He and his classmate Arthur Lumibao were intelligence officers of Z-2, the intelligence branch, under then Colonel Isidoro De Guzman. This was the time when I was a very active reporter. Camp Olivas was one good source of news in those years. I was very much junior with other reporters covering the beat for Daily Star. I was in company of Beteng Songco of Times-Mirror,Tony Torres of Bulletin, Hector Soto of Evening News Ben Gamos of Philippine Journal and Fred Roxas of Philippine News Service.
Espines first major accomplishment was the capture of New People’s Army top commander and most wanted Bernabe Buscayno alias Commander Dante. From there he rose from the ranks. I developed a strong friendship together with other media persons with him when he was assigned as commander of the Angeles Metrodiscom. I remember the year. It was in 1984 when me and the late Ramiro Mercado made Shanghai Restaurant in Balibago, Angeles our permanent watering hole. As an aside. The late Ram was the consummate drinker. He was the Bacchus of Pampanga Press Club. Later on we were joined by other media persons and the afternoon fellowship became daily. That’s where when Espines wasn’t busy he would drop by and had friendly chats. He wasn’t only picking the tab but provided us useful information.
The year was 1988. I was running for a seat in the Angeles City Council under then the Tony Abad Santos- Ed Pamintuan’s ticket and Espines was still the Metrodiscom commander and held temporary residence in the camp. I sought his help, and this Pangalatok handed me a whooping P40,000, a big amount in those years. I nearly dropped from my chair. He was the biggest donor in my political campaign. How can we forget Espines.