PULUPANDAN, Negros Occidental — The police recovered a cache of high-powered firearms, thousands of ammunition and explosives during a raid on the ancestral house of Mayor Magdaleno Peña in Barangay Ubay here yesterday.
Recovered were 89 firearms, which included shotguns, AK-47 and M-16 assault rifles, .40 and .45 caliber pistols, a 357 revolver, two sniper rifles, and two canisters of one-fourth pound of TNT high grade explosives, Chief Supt. Agrimero Cruz, police director for Western Visayas, said.
Thousands of ammunition for M-16 rifles, shotguns, .45 caliber and 9mm pistols in boxes, bandoleers, combat boots and gun holsters, were also recovered.
Contacted for comment, Peña said the firearms are licensed up to 2016, and belong to four corporations, which he did not name, and claimed that the explosives were planted by the raiders.
He also said no crimes were committed using the firearms, and he no longer owns and lives in the ancestral house in Barangay Ubay, because he stays in Bacolod City.
A team composed of members of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group based in Camp Crame, the police elite 6th Special Action Battalion, PNP Intelligence Group, and the Negros Occidental Police Provincial Office, swooped down on the ancestral house at about 6 a.m. yesterday, on the strength of the search warrant issued by Judge Maria Felomina Singh of the Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 85, for illegal possession of unlicensed firearms.
The raid is part of the police campaign against private armed groups, who may be utilized during election, Cruz, who supervised the police operations, said.
Cruz said the items were recovered from the two-storey Peña mansion and the guard house tower.
The police Scene of the Crime Operatives are now conducting an inventory of the recovered firearms to determine if they have licenses. Other firearms were reportedly licensed under the Golden Lakes Mineral Inc. and Gold Hallow Wings Inc., Cruz said.
He said that while they were verifying the licenses of the firearms, they will file charges against Peña and the occupants of the house for illegal possession of explosives.
“That is very destructive, if used, it can blow up this building (the ancestral house),” Cruz said.
Peña, who denied he owned the explosives, said they were planted by the police since these were marked PNP, and that no independent eyewitnesses were present when they were seized.
He also claimed that a police officer associated with Gov. Alfredo Marañon Jr. issue an affidavit claiming the presence of unlicensed firearms in his house, which the police used in obtaining the search warrant used in the Ubay raid.
Cruz recognized the cooperation extended by Roem Arbolado and other counsel of Peña, who were allowed to witness the search operations. The search was witnessed by lawyers Arbolado and Sally Yparosa, and Ubay kagawad Ernesto Gabil, Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas, in a text message to the DAILY STAR, said.
However, reporters covering the raid were barred by the police from entering the ancestral home compound.
There were also reports that the closed-circuit television cameras in the house had been cut off, while guards were allegedly hogtied by the police.
Cruz also ordered the immediate relief of two policemen – PO2 Pedrito Lupo and SPO1 Vicente Castillo – who will be placed under restriction pending administrative investigation, for carrying firearms while in civilian clothes, in the area.
Lupo is a member of the NOPPO Public Safety Company, while Castillo is assigned at the Pulupandan Police Station. Also held for investigations by the police were five civilians and a security guard.
SONS OWN HOUSE
Peña said he no longer owns the Ubay house, it is owned by his sons, Miguel and Harry, and his brother, Andy.
Miguel is running for mayor of Pulupanan to replace his father, who decided not to seek reelection. Harry, whose mother is actress Plinky Recto, lives abroad, Peña said.
Miguel and Andy sometimes stay in the house, Peña said.
If they have sufficient evidence, Cruz said, the mayor’s sons will be included in the charges for illegal possession of explosives, which is an unbailable offense.
Pulupandan has been included in the list of 13 election hotspots in Negros Occidental, due to violent incidents in previous elections.
Peña, who survived an ambush in May 2007 in Brgy. Zone 4, Pulupandan, said he needed the guns for protection, after he became the target of the New People’s Army.
Peña was wounded, while his driver and bodyguard were killed. Among those who survived was Lupo.*GPB/CPG