Police say MNLF faction behind illegal firearms seized in Sarangani

Sarangani Province. Map courtesy of Google

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 17 January) – Authorities have linked an alleged faction of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) to the seizure last Jan. 7 of illegal high-powered firearms from an Indonesian national and two other Filipinos at a checkpoint in Kiamba town, Sarangani province.  

Col. Leo Sua, commander of the Regional Mobile Force Battalion-12, said in a report released on Monday that Indonesian suspect Anton Gobay “was able to get support” from an MNLF faction under the Jihada Minsupala Command.

But he did not cite the group’s role as to how the Indonesian acquired the confiscated firearms, which comprised 10 units of Colt AR-15 caliber 9mm Para rifles, 20 steel magazines, and 10 detachable rifle butts.

The Police Regional Office-12 earlier said it was tracking down the source of the firearms and possible groups and personalities involved in the illegal activity.      

Gobay, 29, and Filipino companions Micheal Tino, 25, Barangay Malalag, Maitum town in Sarangani, and Jimmy Abolde, 53, of Zoneza Saway, Barangay Labangal here were caught in possession of the firearms stashed inside trolley bags while passing a checkpoint onboard a tricycle in Barangay Nalus, Kiamba.

Upon questioning, Sua said the foreigner introduced himself as an Indonesian national based on his identification card but failed to present his passport.

He said Gobay reportedly gained entry into the Philippines from West Papua New Guinea province in Indonesia via Jakarta and then to Manila.

“Accordingly, the firearms will be used for the defense force of their military forces in (West) Papua New Guinea,” the police official said.

Conflict has been reported to have worsened in the past several years in West Papua due to a long-drawn separatist rebellion.    

The West Papua National Liberation Army, labeled by Indonesia as a terrorist and armed criminal group, is the armed wing of the Free Papua Movement, which had long been seeking independence from Indonesia.

Sua said a complaint for violation of Republic Act 10591 or Comprehensive Law on Firearms and Ammunition has already been filed against the suspects before the Sarangani Prosecutor’s Office docketed under NPS No. XII-07-INQ-23A-00005.

He said they have stepped up their “24/7 synchronized checkpoint operations” and police visibility operations in parts of the region through their maneuver companies and platoons.

“Our unit will not allow anyone to just freely transport their firearms, especially if undocumented and illegal even though they are foreign nationals. Everyone should follow the laws and regulations of our country,” Sua said. (Allen V. Estabillo/MindaNews)