Ex-Zambales mayor nabbed for illegal guns

October 22, 2019

A FORMER mayor of San Antonio, Zambales accused of protecting an organized crime gang yesterday was arrested by agents of the Philippine National Police Anti-Kidnapping Group after a raid on his house led to the confiscation of two unlicensed high-powered rifles and dozens of ammunition, PNP-AKG director Col. Jonnel Estomo said.

In a report to PNP OIC Lt. Gen. Archie Francisco Gamboa, the PNP-AKG director identified the arrested suspect as  Romeo Lonzanida,  a 73-year-old ex-mayor of San Antonio town.

Lonzanida was arrested in his house in Sitio Nangalisan in Bgy. Burgos.

Seized were one M-14 automatic rifle with magazine containing 19 bullets and one cal. 5.56 AR-15 assault rifle with magazine containing 19 live ammunition.

Members of the PNP-AKG raided the suspect’s house around 2:48 a.m. yesterday on the strength of a search warrant for violation of Republic Act 10591 or the Comprehensive Firearms and Ammunition Regulations Act of 2013.

Estomo said that during the search witnessed by local barangay officials and Sheriff Florian Banabana of the Angeles City Regional Trial Court, his men also served an alias bench warrant with finality of judgment issued against the ex-mayor by the Sandiganbayan’s 4th Division in connection with eight counts of falsification of public documents.

According to the official, the raid was triggered by information that Lonzanida was allegedly protecting the notorious “Ricardo Peralta Crime Group,” which has gained notoriety for gun-for-hire activity  and kidnappings in Northern and Central Luzon and some parts of Metro Manila.

Estomo said that they received information that before the former mayor surrendered to the National Bureau of Investigation on December 10, 2018, crime group boss Peralta was believed to have taken refuge in San Antonio town under the protection of the ex-mayor.

Peralta and his men became notorious for allegedly offering their “services” to politicians who wanted to have their rivals dead.

Estomo said that a check with the PNP Firearms and Explosives Office showed that Lonzanida was the holder of more than 15 high and low-powered firearms, all with expired firearms’ licenses.

He said that during questioning, Lonzanida said that he served as mayor of San Antonio, Zambales for 23 years until he was unseated after being charged with falsification of public documents and graft and corruption before the Sandiganbayan.

“He claimed he has been in hiding for 10 years already until he was arrested yesterday,” said Estomo.

The accused will be facing criminal charges for violation of RA 10591.

Estomo said that they will temporarily take custody of the ex-mayor until the court orders the accused commitment to jail in connection with the  Sandiganbayan conviction.