18 guns seized inside Tacurong oil palm plantation

KIDAPAWAN CITY (MindaNews/11 January) – Police and Army operatives in Isulan town in Sultan Kudarat province recovered 18 high-powered firearms in a raid on a 900-hectare oil palm plantation in Tacurong City past 10 a.m. Monday, a police official said.

Senior Supt. Danilo Peralta, provincial police director of Sultan Kudarat, said of the items they confiscated, 12 were 12-gauge shotguns, 3were M1 carbines, a 9mm pistol and 2 caliber .38 revolvers.

Peralta said they raided the plantation a week after two groups of security guards manning the place exchanged gunfire that lasted for more than an hour. Two guards, one from each group, were killed and two others were wounded.

The raiding team composed of operatives from the provincial and Tacurong police offices, Criminal Investigation and Detection Group, and the 3rd Infantry Battalion, were armed with at least four search warrants issued last Monday by Judge Jordan Reyes of the Regional Trial Court Branch 19 in Isulan town, Sultan Kudarat.

Arrested during the raid were Eleazar Gallardo, former chairman of the Mindanao Pioneer Plantation Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Cooperative (MinPARBenCo), and Rey Aranas of the Exodus Security Agency, where the guns were seized.

Allegedly confiscated from Gallardo were two carbine rifles, one Armscor shotgun, one 12-gauge shotgun, and ammunition for these firearms.

The raiding team also reportedly recovered seven shotguns, one bandolier and ammunitions for shotguns at the premises of a certain Anthony Montilla at Barrio-Dos, Barangay EJC Montilla in Tacurong, which is part of the plantation.

Montilla owns the Queen Bee Security Agency, according to reports from Tacurong police.

Peralta said charges of violation of Presidential Decree 1866 or illegal possession of firearms are being readied against Gallardo and Aranas while investigations are still ongoing.

“We have yet to know which among these firearms were used during the armed fighting that killed two people and injured two others.  Land dispute is believed to be the primary motive in the encounter,” said Peralta.

The plantation has been awarded to at least 300 beneficiaries, mostly former plantation workers, through compulsory acquisition under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program, according to Sultan Kudarat provincial agrarian reform officer Aaron Arumpac.

The acquisition, however, was questioned by the Montillas in Tacurong City. (Malu Cadelina Manar/MindaNews)