..DAVAO CITY -- Authorities arrested a town mayor in Davao del Sur province and six of his bodyguards for possession of high-powered firearms seized in a raid Thursday.
The arrest came after authorities confirmed reports that a cache of firearms has been kept at the house of Jose Abad Santos town Mayor Jimmy Joyce in Barangay Caburan Small of the same municipality.
The raid, which happened around 1:30 a.m. Thursday, was conducted by combined elements of the Police Regional Office (PRO) and Davao del Sur Provincial Police Office (DSPPO).
Armed with a search warrant issued by a Regional Trial Court (RTC) in Manila, the authorities swooped down on Joyce’s residence and recovered two M16 Armalite rifles, two M16 Baby Armalite rifles, one Ingram assault rifle, one 9mm pistol, one rifle grenade, one Colt MK .45 pistol and assorted ammunition and magazines.
The raiding team also recovered one AK47 assault rifle, one Tavor assault rifle, one M16 Bushmaster rifle, one cal. 40 pistol, scope and rifle, and assorted ammunitions and magazines inside the bedroom of the town mayor.
Joyce and his bodyguards were immediately arrested. They are now in the custody of the Regional Intelligence Unit (RIU) in Davao.
Superintendent Marcial Magistrado, PRO-Davao spokesperson, identified the mayor's bodyguards as one Boroy Tilo, Ronnie Pandamon, Arnel Dionesio, Victorio Venancio, Hernan Miguel, and Floro Arquillano, all residents of Jose Abad Santos.
Magistrado said the suspects were nabbed by virtue of a search warrant issued by Judge Marino dela Cruz of the National Capital Region RTC Branch 2 in Manila City dated July 25, 2012.
Magistrado said the mayor was charged with violation of Presidential Decree 1866 as amended by Republic Act 8294, otherwise known as “The Illegal Possession, Manufacture or Dealing In, Acquisition or Disposition of Firearms, Ammunition or Explosives.”
Superintendent Leonardo Felonia of RIU-Davao, Chief Inspector Michael John Mangahis of the Regional Police Special Action Force, and Superintendent Quirubin Manalang of Davao del Sur Provincial Police Office led the raiding team.
"We are still conducting further investigation on the matter lalo na sa kanyang bodyguards. We are also checking if the (mayor) has the legal documents for these firearms," Magistrado said.
Last week, Davao del Sur Governor Douglas Ra. Cagas urged the police and the military to dismantle private armed groups in the province.
Cagas believes these groups were backed up by politicians in preparations for the coming elections in 2013.
DSPPO Chief Superintendent Ronaldo Llanera and the Army's 39 Infantry Battalion (IB) commander Lieutenant Colonel Norman Zuniega vowed to heed the call of Cagas to avert the proliferation of loose firearms in the province.
Cagas is eyeing to bring this issue to Malacañang, as he cited the order of President Benigno Aquino III earlier to disband the private armed security groups of politicians.
In 2010 elections, the Commission on Elections placed Davao del Sur under its control following a bloody gunfight between the security forces of contending politicians. (With Ben D. Arche/Sun.Star Davao/Sunnex)