Raids on houses of Ecija mayor, allies yield firearm cache

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09:54 PM June 15th, 2012

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June 15th, 2012 09:54 PM

CABANATUAN CITY—Police on Monday recovered at least 15 firearms and bullets from the houses of Mayor Arvin Salonga of San Antonio town, Nueva Ecija province, and his supporters when they searched these on the strength of court-issued warrants.

The teams, led by the Philippine National Police Intelligence Group, were pursuing leads that showed that Salonga and his supporters had violated Republic Act No. 8294 (the law governing illegal gun possession), said Senior Insp. Carlito Lopez, San Antonio police chief.

But Lopez said all firearms recovered by the police were registered and licensed.

The raiding team seized an AK-47 automatic rifle, two shotguns, a baby Armalite, six .45 cal. pistols, a .357 cal. gun, two .22 cal. guns, a 9 mm pistol and a Galil assault rifle. They also recovered bullets for handguns and rifles.

Salonga lamented what he described were illegal and abusive searches on his and his supporters’ houses. He said the Philippine flag at the town hall had been displayed at half mast since Tuesday to protest the raids.

“It is unfortunate that while all the Philippine flags were waving proud on Independence Day, it’s at half mast here,” he said on Thursday. “How can we claim freedom here now?”

Salonga said the five guns seized from his house were covered by proper documents. He said three guns were licensed under his name while the two others were licensed under the town government and being used by local government security personnel.

He said at least 250 policemen conducted the searches.

The search team, led by Senior Supt. Allen Bantolo of the PNP-IG in Metro Manila, was composed of members of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Team, the PNP Special Action Force, the PNP Regional Mobile Group in Central Luzon and the Nueva Ecija police.

Lopez said the team did not coordinate the raid with his office. He said the policemen searched Salonga’s house in Barangay Poblacion, as well as the houses of Roberto Carpio, Elpidio Sicat, Joseph Guinto, Saturnino Miranda, Hero Henson Garcia and Roy Juliano, the mayor’s supporters.

Lopez said Salonga and the six men were not in their houses when the police conducted the searches. The seized guns were taken to the Central Luzon police headquarters in Pampanga province.   Armand Galang, Inquirer Central Luzon

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