CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY – Authorities seized an arms cache and invited for questioning several men during a raid at the house of a member of the Dimaporo clan, who serves as mayor of a Lanao del Norte town, a police spokesperson said on Thursday.
Lanao del Norte is among areas being watched in connection with the May polls because of its history of poll violence.
Senior Superintendent Ronnie Francis Cariaga, spokesman of the Northern Mindanao police, said the raid was conducted by a joint police and military force backed by a warrant issued by Executive Judge Mario de la Cruz of the NCR’s 22nd Judicial Branch on the house of couple Pantao Ragat Mayor Eleanor Dimaporo Lantud and Pantao Ragat Vice Mayor Lacson Lantud early Wednesday.
The Lantud couple were present during the raid, Cariaga said.
The raiding team seized 41 high-powered rifles, including a .60 caliber machine gun, M79 grenade launchers and seven handguns, all unlicensed, and assorted ammunition from the couple’s house in Pantao Ragat, he added.
The house also yielded vests, ammunition bandoliers, helmets and other personal protective equipment marked AFP and PRAT, he said.
Cariaga said seven members of the town’s Civil Active Auxiliary, who were inside the house during the raid, were also invited for questioning.
“They were in the vicinity of the house so we asked them to come with us to the headquarters for clarification,” Cariaga said.
He said members of the police’s Scene of the Crime Operatives tried to trace the origin of the firearms using their serial numbers.
Cariaga said the Lantud couple would be charged under Republic Act No. 8294 or the law on illegal possession of firearms.
Neither the mayor nor her husband issued statements on the raid.
Lanao del Norte is among two Northern Mindanao provinces consistently tagged as possible “hot spot” every elections. The other is Misamis Occidental.
Police authorities in Northern Mindanao said the province had a history of election-related violence in recent years, which made it an area of utmost concern during polls.
Like the 20 other Lanao del Norte towns, which members of the Dimaporo clan have also been ruling for decades now, Pantao Ragat is also considered a flash point of election violence.
In 2009, Lanao del Norte Representative Abdullah Dimaporo even backed calls for the extension of martial law earlier declared over Pantao Ragat.
Dimaporo’s argument was that the town vice mayor controlled the town militia and might use them for violence.
In October 2010, amid controversies that plagued the conduct of the May polls that year, armed men ambushed and injured a poll official and three others in Kolambugan town.
Also, Associate Immigration Commissioner Abdullah Mangotara had urged the relief of the police chief of Salvador town due to his alleged failure to stop the series of alleged politically related violence there.
Mangotara, also a former Lanao del Norte representative, listed several incidents in Kolambugan in 2012 as politically motivated. Bobby Lagsa, with a report from Allan Nawal, Inquirer Mindanao