Police sues 28 armed members of religious group

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/26 August) — Police authorities filed charges against 28 members of a local religious group who were earlier arrested for alleged illegal possession of firearms and deadly weapons and for violating the city’s declaration as a “no firearms zone.”

Senior Insp. Philipp Castillo, police station no. 7 chief, said Thursday they filed multiple complaints before the City Prosecution Office against leaders and members of the Philippine Holy Spirit Priest Chaplain Enforcement Inc. who were allegedly found in possession of several firearms and weapons while converging at their base in the outskirts of the city last Tuesday.

He said they recovered a baby M-16 Armalite, three .45 caliber hand guns, several deadly arrows and an assortment of bladed weapons from the group when they were rounded up at Purok Maligaya in Barangay San Jose.

“We’ve been receiving complaints about the presence of this group and their suspicious gatherings. We made some verification and found that they were armed when they converge in the area,” Castillo said.

He said they launched the operation following the arrest of an alleged leader of the group in a police checkpoint near the village for carrying a handgun.

He said police personnel manning the checkpoint found suspect Miguel Acabo allegedly carrying a licensed .45 caliber pistol but the latter failed to present a permit-to-carry or PTC for it.

“He was even arrogant at first and threatened to shoot our personnel for supposedly blocking his way,” Castillo said.

He said they immediately coordinated with officials of Barangay San Jose and elements of the Philippine Army-led Joint Task Force GenSan for the round-up of the other members of the group.

During the operation, he said they recovered an M-16 Armalite rifle and two more licensed .45 caliber pistols from supposed sect leaders Jerome Arano and Danilo Mandal, both residents of Cahilsot Village in Barangay Calumpang.

He said they found the deadly arrows and bladed weapons in the possession of the other members of the group who gathered in the area.

Castillo said the alleged leaders of the group, which is registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission as a sect, failed to present a PTC for their handguns.

“They have valid licenses of their handguns but they don’t have a PTC for them. They mainly violated no firearms zone declaration,” he said. Aside from violation of EO 23, Castillo said they filed charges of illegal possession of firearms, bladed weapons and violation of the
deadly arrows law against the suspects.

Mayor Darlene Magnolia Antonino-Custodio had earlier issued Executive Order (EO) No. 23, formally declaring the city’s 26 barangays as a no-firearm zone “in the interest of peace and order.”

In issuing EO 23, Custodio cited as main reason the prevalence of armed violence and crimes involving firearms in the city since January 2010 has already “reached the alarming level.”

Custodio lauded the arrest of the 28 suspects saying it only shows that the “no-firearms zone” declaration in the city is starting to draw results.

“I’m very happy with this accomplishment by the police and this should serve as a warning to all those who are not taking this declaration seriously,” she said. (Allen V. Estabillo/MindaNews)