South Cotabato mayor, son, arrested for illegal guns, ammo

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/11 September) — Police arrested the mayor of Tampakan town in South Cotabato and his son after yielding several unlicensed firearms and ammunition in separate anti-drug raids on Monday.

Chief Insp. Alex Joe Orcajada, chief of the Police Regional Office-12’s Regional Drug Enforcement Unit (RDEU), said the illegal firearms and ammunition were recovered from the houses of Tampakan Mayor Leornardo Escobillo and his son Leonardo Jr. in Barangay Maltana.

The operation was based on 15 search warrants for possession of illegal drugs, firearms and explosives issued by Judge Alandrex Betoya of the Regional Trial Court Branch 16 in Kabacan, North Cotabato.

The police official said they raided first the residence of Leonardo Jr. in Purok 6 of Barangay Maltana at around 4 a.m.

He said the search resulted to the recovery of an unlicensed caliber .40 handgun with live ammunition.

A caliber .45 handgun with live bullets was also found but it carried proper licenses and permits.

At around 6:10 a.m., Orcajada said they implemented another search at the house of Mayor Escobillo in Barangay Maltana proper.

Seized from the mayor’s house were two unlicensed carbine rifles with live ammunition, he said.

Two licensed caliber .45 handguns, a shotgun, an Uzi sub-machine gun and assorted bullets were also found.

No illegal drugs were found during the raids.

The search at a nearby house of the mayor’s other son, Niel Ryan, was called off by the raiding team due to unspecified reasons.

Leonardo Jr. was detained at the Tampakan municipal police station while Mayor Escobillo was placed under hospital arrest at a medical facility in Koronadal City after reportedly suffering from hypertension.

The mayor, who is currently on his third term, condemned the raid and denied any involvement in illegal drug activities.

In a brief press conference before he was sent to the hospital, Mayor Escobillo decried the manner as to how the raid was carried out by the RDEU.

“They kicked and destroyed the door of my house before even presenting the search warrants,” he said.

He claimed that all the recovered firearms at his house have proper licenses and permits and that he owned them for security purposes.

The mayor blamed politics as behind the raid, which he said was based on “wrong information” fed to authorities.

Leonardo Jr. has been rumored to be eyeing the mayoralty post in the 2019 elections.

“I have supported the war on drugs of the President (Rodrigo Duterte) and the people of Tampakan and the police know that. This is clearly politically motivated,” he said.

Mayor Escobillo said he will face the charges squarely and expressed willingness to undergo a drug test.

Lawyer Jose Ledda Jr., the mayor’s counsel, said they are currently considering legal counter-moves in line with the raid.

“But right now, we’re on wait and see mode. We’re waiting what the police will do,” he said.

He added that Mayor Escobillo and his son were innocent of the accusations and ready to prove them.(MindaNews)