AUTHORITIES have arrested a couple and their companion at a checkpoint in El Salvador City, Misamis Oriental Monday morning, October 23 after the van they were traveling in was carrying boxes of what appeared to be explosives and government-owned bullets for high powered guns.
The suspects, identified as 55 year-old Jerry Balabat, his 53-year-old wife Amalia, and Serio Pangantihon, 32, all residents of Polomolok, South Cotabato, were onboard a Toyota Hi-ace van when they were flagged down at a security checkpoint.
The confiscated items include a box containing 150 fired cartridges of 7.62mm; two boxes of 164 caliber .50 fired cartridges; six boxes (30 pieces each) 7.62mm live ammo; 50 rounds of caliber .60 live ammo; a caliber .30 live ammo; 9 pieces caliber .50; two 5.56mm RPA live ammo; and a 7.62mm RPA live ammo.
Authorities also recovered a box containing 11 caliber .50 live ammo; 15 pieces caliber .50 fired cartridges; 100 rounds of caliber 5.56; three boxes containing 30 pieces live 5.56mm ammo;18 boxes containing 30 live 5.56 ammo RPA; 16 green tip live 5.56mm; and six 40mm M203 grenade launcher, which is considered as explosives.
Senior Superintendent Rolando Destura, provincial police director, said the seized ammo boxes have "Government Arsenal" and "Philippine Army Property" markings.
"May markings na arsenal basi sa nakita natin pero subject for verification sa crime lab para malaman saan galing ito," Destura said.
Destura said the suspects came from Marawi and Iligan cities and bound for General Santos City to deliver the items.
Destura said the suspects claimed they were not aware that the boxes loaded in the van contained ammunition, adding that they were just paid to bring the items to General Santos City for P8,000.
"Gikan daw sila sa Iligan or Marawi and going to GenSan. It is so irresponsible kung moingon sila nga wala sila kabalo unsay sulod sa ilang gikarga," Destura said.
Destura said the suspects implicated a supposed soldier whom they said owned the items and came to the El Salvador City Police Office.
But the police official said it was suspicious why the suspects did not inform the police that the alleged soldier visited them at the police station.
"Kanang sundalo nga ilang gisulti nganong wala man sila moingon sa police nga mao nay ilang hatdan? Kung akoy nadakpan pwede ra gud ko moingon og pangalan aron mawala akong liability. Dili pa ta kasiguro sa ilang gi-mention nga mga pangalan," Destura said.
Suspects will be charged with illegal possession of ammunition and explosives while authorities have yet to connect the suspects to any terror group.
"We are doing our job to prevent the spread of atrocities like what happened sa Marawi City kasi malay natin nag-start na silang mag-transport at mag-ipon sa ibang lugar para another scenario ng gulo kay higpit ang checkpoint natin papasok sa CDO kasi kabalo ta nga naay threat,"Destura said.
Meanwhile, Captain Joe Patrick Martinez, spokesperson of the army's 4th Infantry Division (4ID), said they will verify the claims of the suspects tagging an alleged soldier as the owner of the explosives and assorted ammunition.
"We are hoping they will cooperate to us para madali ang investigation. We need to know the exact name and unit na assign. As of now hindi pa ito naibibigay sa amin. Nevertheless, we are happy that with strong and strict implementation of our security measures hindi nakakalusot ang mga ganitong illegal activities sa ating area," Martinez said.