Similarities Between NAIA Ambush and Cocaine Cowboys

This entry is quite late as the news item cited in here is no longer that recent as of this posting. However, the observation made was just too apropos to not share. It’s fascinating, although not exactly uplifting bit of information. However, it does add quite a bit more intrigue to the backstory of such an unfortunate incident.

NOTE: This post was written in no way to make light of such a heinous act of killing, but to share with readers in great detail something that crossed my mind when I heard the news about the incident.

My Reaction to the News

Upon hearing the news, my first reaction was incredulity due to it happening in an airport, a place where security would be the toughest. Later on, I realized that there was another murder that happened in an airport, and it was in USA no less. I learned of it from a documentary called Cocaine Cowboys.

NAIA Ambush

For those who haven’t heard of this news, either you’re in another country or just not in tune with current events, here are the details.

On December 20, 2013, a mayor from Zamboanga del Sur, Ukol Talumpa, was killed by two hitmen in the arrival area of Terminal 3 of Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) in broad daylight. The killers were riding on a motorcycle, and shot into the group where the mayor was before driving away. They also wounded 5 and killed 2 more, including the mayor’s wife, a relative, and an 18-month-old baby.

It was reported that the airport terminal did not have security cameras.

Cocaine Cowboys

thumbnail_cocaine-cowboysThis is a documentary released in 2006 by Rakontur about the rise of cocaine in America and the resulting crime epidemic in Miami during the 1970’s and 1980’s. It’s a well-produced film full of vivid details about killing and drug trafficking, told by the people who were there.

Those who are familiar with the history of crime in the US should recognize the name of Pablo Escobar, the Colombian drug lord who was part of the infamous Medellin Cartel and killed by police in 1993. The thing was that he wasn’t the only big player in that scene. Alongside him was a vicious woman known as “The Cocaine Godmother”.

Griselda Blanco and her violent dealings are the main focus of Cocaine Cowboys, as well as in Cocaine Cowboys 2. It’s even said that she was the one who made Pablo Escobar the drug lord that he was, which means that she was a very powerful figure in the Colombian drug trade. It was also said that she was a very vicious woman who had an appetite for violence so incessant that the unwanted attention garnered by her carelessness accelerated the decline of their power.

Six years after the documentary’s release, she was gunned down in front of a butcher shop in Medellin.

Her youngest son, Michael Corleone Blanco (yes, she really named him that), was featured in an episode of Deadliest Warrior, narrating and demonstrating the violent tools and methods used by the Medellin Cartel. That was a rather amusing episode. I might write a bit about that show in the future.

One of the main characters in Cocaine Cowboys is Jorge “Rivi” Ayala, one of Griselda Blanco’s favorite hitmen. He is perhaps the guy who really makes this a great documentary since even though he is a convicted felon who confessed to numerous killings, there’s no denying that he is a damn good storyteller.

When I start reviewing documentaries on this website, Cocaine Cowboys will be one of the first titles I’ll write about since I’ve watched it literally dozens of times.

The Similarities

The murder in NAIA holds a lot of similarities to the incidents detailed in Cocaine Cowboys.

Drive-by shooting with motorcycles was a preferred method of killing during those troubled times in Miami. In fact, Griselda Blanco is often credited as the innovator of this style of killing targets.

It’s more effective than drive-by shooting with cars since bikes are faster and gives easier access for the gunman in getting closer to the target for a better shot. After the deed is done, the bike can make a getaway with greater speed and with ability to drive into areas inaccessible by car. Two hitmen can ride in tandem, one driving and one with a weapon, most likely a compact submachine gun since it can fire in full auto and can be easily concealed.

Collateral damage is an obvious side-effect of using automatic weapons in such situations.

There are also two cases of kids being killed detailed in the film. Here is one of them, the accidental death of a 3-year-old boy named Johnny Castro.

It’s as if the NAIA ambush was a condensed version of the stuff talked about in Cocaine Cowboys, and it doesn’t help that (as of this writing) drugs are being suspected as the root of the killing.

More on Murder

There are a few things I can say about crime from my perspective.

I remember when there was a shootout between the police and the Waray-Waray Gang just a few blocks from my place. They ended it in a street I usually walked through on my way home from school (I was still in college). The day after that incident, I passed by and saw the blood stains. If you read through that news article, you’ll find the line “…three armed men were roaming T. Alonzo Street near C.M. Recto Avenue”, which is exactly where I live. That was quite disconcerting, to say the least.

There have been massacres and other batshit insane stuff going on in this neighborhood, although they are few and far between. I’ve never really felt particularly in danger around here, but it’s not exactly Pleasantville. It’s just what happens in a busy district full of people working day and night to make a buck and survive such as this. Some people succumb to the pressures, while others work in dishonest ways.

Apathy is everywhere, and no one really wants to talk to authorities (I know that from personal experience). Heinous crimes like this are not the cause of a chaotic society, but an acute symptom of one. Men brazen enough to pull this off are aware that they can get away with it by knowing the loopholes and getting around things methodically.

Professionals thrive in such an environment, but perhaps they’ve become too bold this time around. Kill over 50 people in the middle of nowhere and maybe people are detached enough from that place to somehow let it slide. But do it Hollywood-style in Metro Manila at the country’s main airport, then perhaps it’s really time to put the proverbial foot down.

If not, then perhaps it’s really no surprise that it’s more fucked up here in the Philippines.

Also, let’s not forget the other notable person who was killed in that airport — the president’s own father, the man whose name the airport now bears.