Search at Maricalum hit; recovered firearms illegal

Was the raid at Maricalum Mining Corporation (MMC) in Sipalay City, Negros Occidental illegal?

Jovim Entila, coordinating lawyer of the National Mines and Allied Workers Union (Namawu), questioned the search at the facility after the 21 security guards assigned there were immediately replaced a day after the raid. They were brought to the National Bureau of Investigation-Bacolod office for verification.

Their replacement was reportedly hired by the management of Maricalum, which has yet to issue a statement on the incident.

On Monday, agents of National Bureau of Investigation (NBI)-Manila, along with its local offices and the Philippine Army, swooped down on the facility and recovered 12 firearms.

They were acting based on a search warrant issued by a Regional Trial Court (RTC) judge from Quezon City for illegal possession of firearms.

The search warrant, a copy of which was obtained by SunStar Bacolod, was against a certain Noli Micabel and/or occupants of Warehouse 3-Port Area of the facility.

The granting of the search warrant was due to "probable cause to believe that a crime" for violation of the Comprehensive Firearms and Ammunition Regulation Act has been "committed or is about to be committed and that there are good and sufficient reasons to believe that respondent is keeping under his control and possession in his premises" the four shotguns, four pistols, and ammunition.

The warrant was addressed to "any peace officer."

Entila told SunStar Bacolod that he went to NBI-Bacolod office after the arrest of the 21 security guards to "relay a separate concern."

He stressed the guards were hired by the union members to secure the property which they legally possessed after they won the labor case before the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) against their former employer.

He asked why the actions of the NBI and the management appeared to be coordinated.

Entila continued: "Did they just make the search warrant as a legal front to enforce what they want?"

He pointed out there was no single name of the arrested security guards that were included in the search warrant.

He explained that Namawu members took possession of the said property after they won the case following the closure of the said mining company years ago.

"Maricalum was ordered by NLRC to pay these employees in millions. But since the company could not pay them, they have asked the NLRC to execute the award to Maricalum to pay or settle them in exchange for the property," he said.

However, the management then filed an ejectment case before the Municipal Trial Circuit Courts in Sipalay which was granted. The Namawu appealed the case, which is still pending for resolution.

Entila said the management should have shown respect as Namawu owns the said property.

With the raid, he claimed it seemed that the union was "ejected by force."

NBI-Bacolod head Renoir Baldovino stressed no arrest was made since the security guards were only invited to help in the validation process.

Entila pointed out it is still considered as an arrest "because once a person is deprived of his or her liberty that is an arrest."

He also questioned why the search warrant was issued by a court in Quezon City, and not a local court.

"They should have applied it at the RTC in Kabankalan so their reasons for applying a search warrant would be easily verifiable," he said.

Illegal firearms

Baldovino said Tuesday, March 6, that appropriate charges will be filed relative to the raid at the facility.

"We cannot divulge how many firearms yet, but the recovered firearms were unlicensed and have expired licenses," he said, adding that it was based on the verification of the Philippine National Police PNP Firearms and Explosives Office.

Colonel Eliezer Losañes, commanding officer of the 303rd Infantry Brigade of the Philippine Army based in Murcia town, said the recovered firearms from the mine site were five shotguns, five .38 caliber revolvers, one .9mm pistol and one PG-9.

"It's the NBI- Manila, as the lead agency, that has those firearms verified. They just requested our support and we were only informed last minute about the operation. We were not even informed about the target," Losañes pointed out.

Sent home

Baldovino said all the security guards who were invited to the NBI-Bacolod office for verification had already returned to Sipalay City.

He said it would be the NBI-Manila that will determine who will face the charges.
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