Army nabs suspected communist couple, seizes 23 high powered firearms in three Bicol provinces

November 2, 2009 10:52 pm 

By Mar S. Arguelles

PILI, Camarines Sur — Army troopers arrested a couple suspected to be communist rebel leaders and seized 23 high powered firearms in a launched fresh tactical offensive over the weekend in various towns in the provinces of Sorsogon, Albay and Masbate, a Philippine Army (PA) official said on Tuesday.

Joint elements of the PA and Philippine National Police (PNP) regional mobile command arrested on Monday Jerry Esquivel alias Randy, his wife Maricel Bansan alias Myla, both residents of Donsol town in Sorsogon. The couple are facing murder, attempted murder and rebellion charges in two local courts in Sorsogon.

Maj. Harold Cabunoc, PA 9th Infantry Division spokesman, said the couple are leaders of the dismantled New People’s Army (NPA) Front Committee Jaylo where Esquivel was the spokesman of the communist front operating in Sorosogon province.

Responding to an information given by residents in the area, the team raided and subsequently arrested the couple at their residence at about 5 am Monday in barangay Pawala, Donsol town. The suspects did not resist arrest.

The suspects were arrested by virtue of warrant of arrest issued by Judge Honesto Villamor and Judge Borneges C. Candolea of Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 52 and 53 Sorsogon City respectively for the case of murder, attempted murder and rebellion.

Cabunoc said the couple was later turned–over to the PNP by Army’s 9Ist Battalion. No bail was recommended by court for the suspects who are facing serious offenses.

In Uson, Masbate, an Army troopers seized 23 assorted firearms on board a utility vehicle at a checkpoint in barangay Armenia here.

Army Lt. Col. Anthony Purugganan, commander of the 9th Infantry Battalion, said Army soldiers manning the checkpoint confiscated from one Eduardo Arboleda 20 shotguns, two 9mm pistols, and a .45 caliber handgun inside his utility vehicle.

Purugganan said Arboleda claimed to be an agent of Shooters Guns and Ammunition Club. The suspect claimed that the seized firearms are registered and documented with the police firearms and explosive unit.

Despite the suspect's declaration, the Army soldiers took custody of the seized firearms for verification.

The Philippine Army in coordination with the local PNP in Masbate are intensifying the campaign against gun smuggling in preparation to the upcoming national and local elections.

The island province of Masbate is known for rampant in gun smuggling especially during election season. Various Political Armed Groups (PAGs) are usually being organized and utilized for political interests.

In Albay, Army soldiers engaged suspected NPA rebels in a firefight in separate remote villages in the towns Guinobatan and Pioduran on All Saints and All Souls Day.

Capt. Razaleigh Bansawan, 901st Army Brigade spokesman, said the clash led to death of several communist rebels whose bodies were brought along by their companions while fleeing the fight scenes.

He said the clash with two bans of NPA rebels took place on Sunday at sitio Palatguton, barangay Cabaloan, a remote village in Guinobatan while another engagement took place on Monday at barangay Malapay, Pioduran a coastal town in Albay.

Military operation was heightened in these areas following complaints from villagers about the harassment and extortion activities conducted by communist rebels in their villages.

Villagers are being asked to pay P50 per household or its equivalent in kind as extortion money demanded by the communist movement operating in the area, Bansawan said. (PNA)

FFC/LQ/MSA/cbd

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