PAGADIAN CITY – Philippine authorities said 19 gunmen in two trucks had been intercepted in Pagadian City in Zamboanga del Sur province, but security officials did not reveal the identities of those arrested.
Soldiers seized from the men five M16 automatic rifles, seven .45-caliber pistols, two .357-caliber revolvers, one 9mm pistol, a .38-caliber revolver and assorted ammunition, including 17 black bonnets.
And the mystery deepens after a source in Pagadian City released to The Zamboanga Post the names and a photo of those arrested and two of them are local policemen. But police and military press statements did not say that two of the gunmen were active members of the police force in Pagadian City.
Villagers reported to the military the presence of gunmen in Danlugan that resulted to their arrest. “Prior to apprehension, the government troops received reports from the residents about the presence of armed elements riding in two pick-up vehicles.”
“The government troops immediately responded in the area and were able to flag down the vehicles and immediately apprehended the personalities on board possessing firearms in plain view,” said Lt. Col. Ray Tiongson, a spokesman for the 1st Infantry Division.
Brig. Gen. Bagnus Gaerlan, the division commander, said operations against lawless elements will continue in Zamboanga Peninsula to ensure public safety.
“With the continued cooperation of our people in reporting the presence of armed elements and threat groups in their communities, we can respond at once and prevent these lawless armed elements from disrupting the peaceful and orderly conduct of our elections,” he said.
A man, who witnessed and took video of the arrest of the gunmen, said: “These people were all using bonnets. Their vehicles have no plate numbers and its conduction stickers were covered by a tape,” he said and uploaded the one-hour video on Facebook page “BM Marlyn Revelo.”
An unidentified army commander ordered the passengers – in front of village officials, journalists and policemen, including an official from the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) – to disembark one by one from the trucks as he warned them of severe consequences if they resist violently or try to fight off security forces.
“We are searching your vehicle in front of the Barangay Captain, the COMELEC…isa-isa lang tayo bababa at kung gagawa kayo ng karahasan alam na po ninyo kung ano ang mangyayari sa inyo,” the commander said as soldiers surrounded the trucks.
The passengers, their hands raised in the air as a gesture of peaceful surrender, disembarked one by one as civilians watching not far away, cheered and clapped the soldiers who were leading the unidentified men in front of a makeshift table on the middle of the road. An army truck and several military vehicles were also spotted nearby.
The men were later frisked and searched by soldiers for any weapons and some of them yielded guns. Others carried what looked like talisman. The army official also called a police officer to read the (Miranda Warning) rights of those arrested.
Tiongson said the arrests of the gunmen were carried out by members of the 53rd Infantry Battalion. “The apprehended personalities and recovered firearms were brought to Pagadian City Police Station for proper disposition and filing of appropriate charges,” he said without further elaborating.
It was unknown whether the gunmen were involved in the spate of killings in Pagadian or members of a private armed group or politicians. (The Zamboanga Post)
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