AFP links raid to ‘Red Oct,’ but NBI not on same page
The National Bureau of Investigation on Thursday said it had yet to find evidence supporting the military’s statement linking the cache of firearms seized from a businesswoman in Rizal province to the so-called “Red October” ouster plot against President Duterte.
A thorough investigation was still being conducted to establish such a connection, NBI spokesperson Ferdinand Lavin said as the bureau announced the arrest of Chinese businesswoman Ke Be and five others in a raid conducted Sept. 25 by an NBI special action unit on her mansion in Teresa town.
Armed with a search warrant and backed up by soldiers, NBI agents found about 20 unlicensed assault rifles and pistols at Be’s mansion inside a 3-hectare farm in Pantay Buhangin, Barangay Dalig.
The businesswoman, along with Brandy Solinap, Victor dela Cruz, Bi-lian Ke, Diosdado Bohol and Ke Quiao Li, was charged with illegal possession of firearms and ammunition at the Department of Justice on Wednesday.
Seized from the mansion were four Armalite rifles, a grenade launcher, five shotguns, a .45-caliber pistol, a .38-caliber revolver and two grenades, as well as several two-way radios, cell phones and tactical vests.
According to the NBI, the operation stemmed from a complaint from a business partner of Be who alleged that she was plotting to kill the former and keeping an arms cache at her mansion. According to sources privy to the raid, the agents found tunnels on the property emanating from the mansion.
On Tuesday, however, the Armed Forces of the Philippines issued a press statement saying the search warrant served by the NBI was issued after “months of intelligence operations” against communist guerrillas hiding in the area.
The AFP identified the targets of the intelligence gathering as Armando Lazarte, alias “Pat” and “Romano,” secretary of the Sub-Regional Military Area 4A of the communist New People’s Army; and Tirso Alcantara, alias Bart, a former NPA regional commander.
The statement quoted Brigadier Gen. Arnulfo Marcelo Burgos Jr., commander of the 202nd Infantry Brigade, as saying that soldiers and NBI agents served the warrant on a farm believed to be providing “a safe house” for top NPA leaders in Southern Tagalog.
“The presence of top NPA leaders and the proximity of Teresa town to Manila are indicators that the threat of Red October cannot be downplayed and that the plotters are just awaiting an opportunity to execute their plans,” Burgos said.
But NBI insiders, who asked not to be named in this report lest they incur the ire of superiors, expressed surprise and dismay over the way the military reported the raid.
For one, they complained about the phrase “joint operation” used by the AFP, saying the soldiers only served as security backup of NBI agents—a common arrangement when they are operating in far-flung areas.
They also pointed out that the AFP was not part of the case buildup leading to the raid. “The military was never part of the surveillance. They did nothing. Nothing,” one of the insiders said. “This is disappointing. Is this the way our soldiers think?”
While it was possible that he had friends from the NPA, she also had friends from the police, some of whom had served as her escorts, they added.
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