Cops see big gunrunning syndicate after raid yields weapons
COTABATO CITY—Police seized high-powered firearms in a raid in Maguindanao that authorities said yielded enough guns to run a small army and signs of a big-time gunrunning syndicate operating amid security concerns over an ongoing purge of the voters’ list in the province notorious for election fraud.
Senior Supt. Leo Quevedo, regional head of the PNP Criminal Investigation and Detection Group in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), said three persons were arrested, including a police officer, during the raid on Tuesday.
Quevedo said police conducted the raid in Sema, a village in Datu Odin Sinsuat town in Maguindanao.
The village is about 2 kilometers from the 6th Infantry Division headquarters and a few blocks from the 38th Infantry Battalion headquarters.
Judge Bansawan Ibrahim, of the Regional Trial Court in Cotabato City, issued the search warrant that the police team used in the raid on the house of a certain Ahmad Abas at about 10 p.m. on Tuesday.
Quevedo said arrested were PO1 Julkipli Taraji, a policeman from Zamboanga City, a certain Sampang Abdulradjak and Kahar Abas, both of Datu Odin Sinsuat town.
“This is a big-time gunrunning syndicate,” Quevedo said. Police are still determining where the firearms came from and also if they were meant to disrupt the general registration of voters planned in the province.
President Aquino gave orders to purge voters’ lists in Maguindanao and ARMM and replace these with new ones in a bid to rid the province and region of syndicates usually headed by political clans that manipulate election results.
The seized firearms included three cal. 50 machine guns, rocket-propelled grenades, a cal. 45 pistol, grenades and boxes of ammunition.
Quevedo said the regular price of a machine gun is P400,000 but quoted one of the arrested suspects as saying the price is “negotiable” if the gun will be bought from gunrunners.
Taraji is former member of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) who was integrated into the police force after MNLF signed a peace pact with government in 1996.
Taraji said he owned the two machine guns and the cal. 45 pistol. “I don’t know who owns the other firearms,” he said.
He said he turned to selling firearms to augment his income. “Our lives are miserable under the Aquino administration,” he said.
Taraji said the firearms he had been selling were seized by MNLF from soldiers at the height of the MNLF rebellion.
“We hid them for so long. We thought of retrieving them for commercial use. We are hard up in cash,” he said. Edwin Fernandez and Charlie C. Señase, Inquirer Mindanao; with DJ Yap in Manila