PARANG, Maguindanao (PNA) – Police authorities in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) have launched a massive manhunt against three town mayors of Lanao del Sur allegedly involved in big time illegal drug trade.
Chief Supt. Agripino Javier, police director for ARMM, refused to name the officials but said intelligence reports showed they are “drug lords or illegal drug protectors.”
Some private individuals have raised P100,000 each bounty for the arrest of the suspects, Javier revealed.
“Surrender or die,” Javier told the suspects who he said have armed followers.
“You know ARMM has many private armies, now is the time to meet them head on, especially we have a very supportive PNP chief and very supportive President,” Javier said.
Javier has relieved the provincial police directors of Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi for their dismal performances in the police drive against illegal drugs. Ten town police chief were also relieved for the same reason.
Meantime the Philippine National Police (PNP) is preparing to file cases against Albuera, Leyte Mayor Rolando Espinosa, Sr. initially for drug-related activities and murder.
PNP Eastern Visayas Regional Director Chief Supt. Elmer Beltejar said they have been gathering pieces of evidence that will link the mayor to previous killings perpetrated by the Espinosa group.
“We are building a tight case against them. There are many willing witnesses coming out providing vital information unlike in the past where people are scared to testify,” Beltejar said.
The band of private armed group is allegedly led by the mayor and his son, Rolando, Jr. known as Kerwin, a top drug lord in Eastern Visayas.
At least six of them were killed during an encounter with the police early Wednesday morning.
The police identified those killed in shootout as Ricky Gravillo of Albuera, Teresito Laro Paderanga of Zamboanga del Sur, Richard Mato of Zamboanga del Sur, an alias Tatay from Mindanao, an alias Arman from Mindanao, and one unidentified bodyguard.
On Thursday, the police regional office presented to the media some 21 assorted long firearms, 16 short firearms, hand grenade, and ammunitions recovered after the fire fight, buy-bust operation and some were turned over by alleged members of the Espinosa group who surrendered to authorities.
The police recovered these firearms between July 28 until Wednesday midnight.
Director General Ronald dela Rosa, chief of the Philippine National Police (PNP), said that the affidavit that Espinosa submitted to the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) on Wednesday may even be used as evidence against him.
Espinosa signed an affidavit where he denied involvement in illegal drugs although he admit that his son Kerwin is into illegal drugs trade.
“I turned him over to the CIDG for his statement. Whatever the CIDG could get from him could be used to pursue cases against anybody involved in illegal drugs,” said Dela Rosa.
Meantime three more mayors of Maguindanao province who were linked to drugs went to the headquarters of the Police Regional Office-Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao to clear their names.
Chief Insp. Ronald de Leon, PRO-ARMM spokesperson, said Mayor Rasul Sangki of Datu Abdullah Sangki, Mayor Montaser Sabal of Talitay town and Datu Piang Mayor Genjuine Kamaong were accompanied by lawyer Kirby Abdullah, the regional director of Department of the Interior and Local Government to the regional police hearquarters in Parang, Maguindanao.
De Leon said the three mayors were directed by Abdullah to coordinate with PRO- ARMM and Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency to shed light on their involvement in the illegal drugs trade.
(With reports from Aaron Recuenco and Joseph Jubelag)