ALL security measures are in place to ensure an honest and orderly national and local elections in Bicol this coming Monday, Police Regional Office 5 director, Brigadier General Arnel B. Escobal told the Journal Group yesterday as he expressed their preparedness to counter poll threats posed by the New People’s Army, partisan armed groups and holders of loose firearms in the region.
With the help of the Armed Forces, the PRO5 director said they are further stepping-up their conduct of checkpoints to arrest the flow of illegal weapons and mounting an unrelenting crackdown against PAGs, drug syndicates and other criminals in the region where 19 areas have been tagged as election ‘areas of concern.’
In particular, Escobal said they are keeping a close eye on the provinces of Masbate, Camarines Sur and Albay where there have been a recorded presence of NPA partisans and PAGs said to be under the employ of rogue politicians.
Among the PAGs identified for neutralization are the Arizabal and Villareal Partisan Armed Groups operating in Masbate province as well as the Concepcion Group in Albay and the Mabulo Group in Camarines Sur.
Since January 13 up to last week, a total of 162 gun ban violators have been arrested by the Bicol police in line with its strict enforcement of prohibition on the unauthorized carrying of firearms and other deadly weapons ordered by the Commission on Elections.
Escobal said since January 13, they have also accounted for 816 assorted types of firearms which were either confiscated or seized or surrendered or deposited by their rightful owners to the local police.
He said 164 of the firearms were seized by policemen manning gun ban checkpoints which resulted in the apprehension of 162 individuals, 143 of them civilians, four are government/elected officials, one a member of the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology, three security guards, three members of the Citizens Armed Forces Geographical Unit, three members of threat groups and five members of partisan armed groups.
Escobal said apart from the firearms, they have also confiscated 1,836 other deadly weapons including six firearm replicas, 29 bladed/pointed weapons, seven grenades, 11 improvised explosive devices, 27 home-made guns or ‘sumpak’ and 1,756 different live ammunition.
He said the Masbate police accounted for the biggest number of gun ban violators with 63; followed by Camarines Sur police, 31; Albay police, 22; Camarine Norte police, 13; Sorsogon police, 11; Naga City police, 10; and Catanduanes police with 12.
Escobal said that 816 firearms with expired licenses and 2,100 ammunition were turned over to them by 562 registered holders for temporary safekeeping
He said gunholders from Camarines Norte surrendered the highest number of guns with expired licenses with 147 followed by Masbate, 130; Camarines Sur, 123; Albay, 108; Catanduanes, 74; Sorsogon, 56; and Naga City with 14.
Escobal said that service of search warrants for violation of RA 10591 or the Comprehensive Firearms and Ammunition Regulations Act of 2013 likewise led in the arrest of 38 persons who were found in possession of illegal guns. They include three in Albay, four in Camarines Norte, six in Camarines Sur, 13 in Masbate; and 10 in Sorsogon. Two others were also arrested as a result of Oplan: Bakal operations in Albay province.
Escobal has ordered the deployment of more policemen from the Regional Special Operations Task Group to Masbate, a known perennial election area of concern. The Bicol policemen are getting the support of the Philippine Army in their crackdown against suspected PAG operators and members in the province, some of them said to be rogue politicians.
Last month, Escobal said their ongoing campaign against PAGs and loose firearms led in the arrest of a barangay captain in Placer, Masbate after he sold several unlicensed firearms and more than 100 rounds of live ammunition to an undercover officer.
Escobal identified the arrested suspect as Dioscorro Salundangit Sy, a 64-year old chairman of Bgy. Nagarao in Placer.
Recovered from the suspect’s possession were one caliber 7.62 automatic rifle with nine steel magazines containing 160 bullets, three cal. .45 pistols, four .45 magazines, six .45 live ammunition, a rifle sound suppressor and the boodle money topped by two marked P500 bills.