GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 28 August) – Police are eyeing an Islamic State-inspired local terrorist group operating in South Cotabato province as among the possible sources of the high-powered firearms that were seized last month from Kapa Community Ministry International founder Pastor Joel Apolinario.
Col. Jemuel Siason, South Cotabato police director, said Friday a deeper investigation is ongoing regarding the previous firearms deals between Apolinario and leaders of the Nilong sub-group of the Dawlah Islamiyah-Hassan faction.
He said they received reports that the Nilong group, which was led by remnants of the defunct Sarangani-based terror group Ansar Al-Khilafa Philippines, was engaged in gun-running activities.
“That is now the subject of investigation by PNP (Philippine National Police) units and they are determining how Apolinario got hold of such volume of firearms,” he said in an interview over radio station Bombo Radyo in Koronadal City.
Siason was referring to the cache of high-powered firearms confiscated from Apolinario and his followers after their arrest in a raid last July 21 in a beach hideout in Lingig town, Surigao del Sur.
Recovered were a total of 30 units of M16 rifles, two M4 assault rifles, a Garand rifle, three M60 machineguns, a caliber .50 Barret sniper rifle, three caliber .22 rifles, an M1 Carbine rifle, a shotgun, two rocket-propelled grenade launchers, five caliber .45 pistols, two rocket-propelled grenades and several hundred rounds of ammunition.
Last week, an alleged bomb-maker of the Nilong sub-group who reportedly acted as an “agent” for Apolinario in securing the firearms managed to escape in a raid in Sitio Vio, Barangay Lapu in Polomolok.
Police seized from the house of the suspect, who was identified as Jorhan Utap Palalisan, alleged bomb-making materials consisting of two live rifle grenades, blasting cap and electrical wires.
Apolinario and his family stayed for over two years here and nearby Alabel town in Sarangani while operating a Ponzi-like investment scheme that was ordered stopped in July last year by President Rodrigo Duterte.
On Wednesday afternoon, one of Apolinario’s alleged henchmen identified as Crispin Pariolan was arrested by elements from the PNP-Anti Kidnapping Group and Polomolok police station in Purok Pag-asa, Barangay Cannery.
The suspect had a standing warrant of arrest issued by Judge Jose Tabosares of Regional Trial Court Branch 16 in Kabacan, North Cotabato over the murder of a certain Rodolfo Pioquinto inside a hardware store in Barangay Sangat, M’lang town in March 2019.
Siason said they could not yet establish the links between the Nilong group and Pariolan, who had been in hiding in the area since last year.
But he said the group, which was involved in a string of criminal activities in Polomolok and the neighboring areas since in the past several years, was known to have established local networks.
“We’re closely coordinating with local stakeholders to put an end to the activities of this group,” he said.
Citing intelligence reports, the Nilong group is mostly composed of young men aged 16 to 18-years-old, with some facing arrest warrants.
Since last year, over a dozen members and sympathizers of the group were arrested and neutralized in various police operations.
One of its alleged sympathizers, Barangay Rubber councilor Basit Piang Canapia, was killed after resisting arrest in search operation last Aug. 21. (MindaNews)