THE Philippine National Police Criminal Investigation and Detection Group uncovered a plot to assassinate President Rodrigo Duterte after the CIDG busted a syndicate smuggling gun spare parts and accessories from the United States through legitimate cargo forwarders, PNP chief Director General Ronald ‘Bato’ M. de la Rosa announced yesterday.
Citing a report from PNP-CIDG director Chief Superintendent Roel B. Obusan, the PNP chief said at least 23 personalities who transacted with the smuggling suspects are now being investigated by the CIDG Major Crimes Investigation Unit.
According to Obusan, the suspects use fictitious names and false documents in claiming packages containing the contraband from the U.S. and immediately sell them to gun enthusiasts across the country who receive the items via local courier services.
Obusan said two of the 23 personalities identified in the gun smuggling probe, Wilford Palma and his boss Brian Ta-ala have testified there were previous deliveries from the U.S. which were facilitated through Atlas Shippers International Incorporated. He said the smuggled goods were 104 different major component parts for 5.56 caliber rifles and 298 minor component parts of the same weapon as well as bullet-proof vests which were delivered to 129 personalities and one company across the country.
The CIDG director said Palma and Ta-ala were arrested by members of the CIDG and the Police Regional Office 18 during a raid at Villa Cristina Subdivision in Barangay Tangub, Bacolod City last August 6. An estimated P4.5 million worth of gun parts and accessories were seized during the raid.
The seized pieces of evidence include 35 pieces of 5.56 trigger housing group; 15 pieces of buffer spring locks; 10 barrels; one rail without barrel; one suppressor; 10 butt assemblies; five pieces of quick detach scope mount; 60 pieces of M4 Carbine upper receiver and two beverage entry tools.
Palma revealed that Ta-ala had told him their regular buyer bought 100 pieces of upper receiver for M16 armalite rifle and was looking for lower parts to assemble a gun that would be used to kill Duterte.
He said they had been selling gun spare parts for two years already.
De la Rosa said the PNP intercepted the last shipment of the group in Bacolod City through information given by the US Homeland Security which had been monitoring the suspicious shipments of firearm spare parts.
According to Palma, the gun parts they have sold to that client could be used to assemble more than 100 M-16 automatic rifles. He did not identify the client who is now under investigation.
The PNP chief said it’s possible that the buyer is not a “real gun-for-hire” but was merely used by a syndicate to purchase weapons.
Obusan said the syndicate used balikbayan boxes to smuggle the gun spare parts and accessories. He said that Ta-ala and Palma used the Facebook group ‘Pinoy Pistol Forum’ to transact with clients across the country.
Gen. de la Rosa urged those who have bought accessories and spare parts from the suspects to surrender their weapons to the PNP or face prosecution.
“If they are honest-to-goodness buyers in good faith, they should surrender the weapons they have bought from the syndicate,” the PNP chief said.
Twenty-three more personalities who transacted with the two suspects including nine who submitted themselves to CIDG expressed willingness to cooperate in the investigation into the shipment, trading and selling of smuggled gun parts.
Among them are Ronald Santos y Galliguez, Ryan Douglas y Rios, Charlie Saavedra, Escalante Joe Alian, Edwin Zambas y Angeles, Maribel Bautista, Larry Paet, Santiago Macariola Inoferio Jr, and Roderick Oliveros.
Received from them were a total of 15 gun parts composed of seven upper receivers, a butt, a handgrip, two magazine assemblies, and 4 bolt assemblies.
The suspects are now facing charges for violation of RA 10591 (Comprehensive Firearms and Ammunition Regulation Act).
With Zaida Delos Reyes-Palanca