GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 3 April) – Police authorities have filed multiple charges against a provincial board member of Sarangani Province and four other persons after being caught in possession of illegal firearms, ammunition and explosives in a series of raids in Maitum town Wednesday morning.
Chief Insp. Maximo Sebastian Jr., chief of the Police Regional Office (PRO) 12′s regional special investigation and detection team (RSIDT), identified the suspects as Sarangani board member Bryan Alexander Reganit, Kiayap barangay chairman Ismael Dimaudtang, Kiayap councilor Edgar Improgo, businessman Andrew Thomas Strong and aide Jonald Barquilla.
He said the five suspects were arrested in separate operations launched by joint police units in Barangays Kiayap, Upo and Malalag in Maitum town.
The raiding team, which was led by RSIDT, included personnel from PRO-12’s Regional Intelligence Division, Regional Public Safety Battalion-12, Regional Public Safety Company-12, Special Action Force, Criminal Investigation and Detection Group Region 12, Sarangani Provincial Police Office, Maitum police station, and the General Santos City police’s bomb squad.
Armed with eight search warrants issued by Regional Trial Court Judge Renato Tampac, Sebastian said they initially raided the residence of board member Reganit in Purok Ranyag, Barangay Malalag around 7 a.m.
He said the search on Reganit’s house led to the recovery of an unlicensed caliber .45 handgun with serial number 1094135 and compact magazine with eight live bullets; a lead caliber .50; a caliber .40 pistol with serial no. 171906 and a magazine with 14 live bullets; 12 live bullets of an M14 rifle; 29 pieces of caliber .45 live bullets; 26 pieces caliber .40 bullets; 143 caliber .40 empty cartridge shells; a handgun holster with two empty magazines; and three expired firearms license cards.
He said they found at Dimaudtang’s house a unit of Caspian caliber .45 pistol with serial number 319462 and with a steel magazine loaded with six live bullets; a piece of paper bag with marking “JAG” that contained 26 live bullets of 9mm pistol; an empty 9mm steel magazine loaded with five live bullets; a steel magazine of M16 rifle loaded with two live bullets.
The raiding team recovered and seized from Improgo’s house nine live bullets of a Carbine rifle; a live bullet of a caliber .22 handgun; a live shell of a 12-gauge shotgun; and an empty shell of a 12-gauge shotgun.
The official said the search on the house of subject Mohaliden Pinto yielded negative.
At Strong’s residence and three other properties in Purok Strong, Barangay Upo that were subjected to the search, Sebastian said the team was able to seize various types of firearms, ammunition, explosives, illegal drugs and drug paraphernalia.
Seized were a unit of caliber .45 pistol; a homemade 9mm rifle; a 9mm pistol; a caliber .22 rifle; an air rifle with marking caliber .22 mainland; and one homemade grenade launcher.
Also recovered were several homemade explosives, explosive powders, detonating cords, blasting caps, improvised landmines, two Claymore mines, several empty sachets of suspected methamphetamine hydrochloride or shabu and improvised drug totters.
“The firearms were recovered at Strong’s own room while the Claymore was found hidden at the ceiling,” Sebastian said.
Aside from Strong, who is the father of Maitum town councilor Genaro Strong, he said they arrested two of his aides identified as Jay-r Madregalejo and Dominador, who have pending warrants of arrest for an arson case in Negros Occidental.
A civilian guard at the Strong residence identified as Jonald Barquilla was arrested for possession of an unlicensed caliber .45 pistol, he said.
Sebastian said they immediately filed Thursday morning charges of illegal possession of firearms and ammunition against board member Reganit, Dimaudtang and Improgo.
He said they also filed charges for illegal possession of firearms, ammunition and explosives as well as possession of illegal drug paraphernalia against Strong.
In a radio interview, Reganit said he was surprised by the raid and cited that he immediately surrendered the unlicensed caliber .45 handgun to the raiding team.
“I have several guns that I recently submitted for license renewal but (the recovered caliber .45) was not among them,” he said.
In a separate radio interview, Strong denied owning any of the seized firearms, explosives, explosives materials and illegal drug paraphernalia.
“I don’t know anything about those items. My house is still being built so it is practically open to anyone,” he said.
Strong pointed to a certain Randy, whom he described as a licensed explosives and blasting expert and supposedly a resident of Tagum City, as the owner of the recovered explosives.