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General Lee’s success story in Abra now a PNP template

April 5, 2022 Alfred P. Dalizon 9884 views

Alfred DalizonCONGRATULATIONS are in order for the Cordillera Police Regional Office headed by my friend, Brigadier General Ronald Lee for making the Philippine National Police really proud with the way they addressed the presence of a private armed group said to be under the employ of two powerful politicians in Pilar, Abra last week.

Many generals who attended last Monday’s command conference at Camp Crame told me that PNP chief, General Dionards Carlos and his Command Group were greatly pleased by how Lee, a proud member of PMA ‘Tanglaw-Diwa’ Class of 1992, handled the standoff inside the compound of Pilar Vice-Mayor Josefina Jaja Disono.

The nearly 2-day standoff ended up peacefully as Disono surrendered her 12 bodyguards and 14 high-powered firearms to the Cordillera police after a long negotiation. I fully agree with Gen. Carlos when he said that the Cordillera police really exercised full restraint, the thing called maximum tolerance in dealing with the situation.

For one, the local police have all the reasons to storm the compound since they are conducting a hot pursuit operation after occupants of a heavily-tinted van ignored their checkpoint and bumped two officers in the process before firing shots that shattered a patrol vehicle’s windshield.

The incident took place as the Cordillera Police Regional Headquarters and the Abra Police Provincial Office were monitoring the reported presence of ex-military men reportedly ‘imported’ by the Pilar vice-mayor and her brother, Mayor Mark Somera to provide security to them during the election period in total violation of government rules and regulations.

I heard that Gen. Carlos and all his generals listened intently as Brig. Gen. Lee briefed them on the Pilar, Abra incident and how it ended up peacefully, without shots being fired anymore. It was really a ‘success story’ which could have gone the other way had the local police managed to immediately secure a warrant to search the vice-mayor’s compound, I learned.

Many told me that the 12 bodyguards of the vice-mayor, many of them highly-trained Marine and Army commandos, literally run for their dear lives and looked like rats cornered in a small room when they learned they were already surrounded by the police, and officers were ready anytime to get them.

I could not imagine what would have happened had the Cordillera police got the search warrant immediately and served it quickly. Many really could have died in a scenario where the cornered armed bodyguards would be fighting a close-quarter battle with police commandos. I also heard reports that the ex-military men were afraid they would be fighting with police snipers prompting them to yield without a fight.

That incident should prompt politicians and other licensed gun-holders in the country to strictly comply with all guidelines regarding firearm licenses and Permit-to-Carry-Firearms-Outside-of-Residence issued to them or be stripped of their privilege to own and possess guns in the country.

This after the mayor and vice-mayor of Pilar, Abra were accused of employing a group of former Marine and Army soldiers as unauthorized bodyguards and allowing them to use their registered firearms. Shortly after the end of the standoff, 14 firearms registered under the name of the vice-mayor and her husband were also turned over to the Cordillera police.

The weapons which are now being subjected to a ballistics examination include 4 different 9mm semi-automatic pistols, 2 cal. 40 pistols, 3 cal. 5.56 assault rifles, 3 12-gauge shotguns and 2 cal. .45 pistols.

The March 29 incident which left an ex-Marine trooper dead and 2 local policemen injured prompted the Cordillera police to recommend a string of criminal charges against the re-electionist mayor and vice-mayor. Opponents of the two are also mulling a disqualification case against them.

learned that 12 men which include 8 ex-Marine troopers and a former Army soldier have given written testimonies that they were using the licensed firearms of the two politicians to guard them although PNP rules and regulations regarding PTCFORs and gun licenses stipulate that the firearms shall be concealed and are non-transferable.

Violation of these two provisions shall cause the immediate revocation of the License to Own and Possess Firearms and Firearm Registration of the gun-holder. The law also states that commission of a crime or offense involving the firearm; carrying of the firearm outside the residence or workplace or in any prohibited place without the proper permit to carry the same are also grounds for revocation of the gun permits.

Brig. Gen. Lee has recommended to DILG Secretary Ed Año and Gen. Carlos a series of actions in connection with the incident in Pilar municipality wherein bodyguards of the vice-mayor ignored a police checkpoint and fired shots at officers.

An ensuing gunfight led in the killing of one of the suspects who turned out to be a dismissed member of the Philippine Marines and a standoff after the armed men holed up inside the Disono compound before eventually surrendering on Wednesday last week along with 14 of their weapons.

I was told that as of press time, the Cordillera police is still continuing its effort to recover more firearms and other deadly weapons in possession of the Disonos and other politicians in Abra that could be used as an ‘instrument of violence’ during the May 9 national and local elections.

Gen. Carlos has commended the Cordillera region and Abra police officers and men who helped resolve the standoff and caused the surrender of the 12 suspects holed out inside the politician’s compound without shots being fired. He was all praises for Brig. Gen. Lee whom he instructed to supervise the operation in Pilar initially handled by Abra police director, Colonel Maly Cula.

Brig. Gen. Lee told me they have recommended the filing of appropriate criminal cases including assault on a person in authority, violation of the gun ban and attempted murder against the occupants of the van that disregarded their checkpoint.

The official said that since last December, they have been validating a series of reports and information from concerned citizens that the Pilar mayor and vice-mayor are allegedly maintaining a private armed group composed of retired or dismissed Armed Forces personnel, many of them recruited from Mindanao.

The validated reports prompted members of the Pilar Municipal Police Station and the Cordillera Regional Mobile Force Battalion to put up a checkpoint along Beroña Street in Poblacion, Pilar where they tried to flag down occupants of a white tinted Toyota Hi-Ace van 10:30 in the morning of March 29.

However, instead of stopping the driver of the van stepped on the gas and bumped two officers, Lieutenant Boyd Leeson Kis-Ing and Patrolman Frenzel Alperez who both suffered abrasions and other body injuries. The lawmen chased after the suspects but were fired upon. A bullet fired by one of the van occupants shattered the windshield of a police mobile car which carried four officers.

The lawmen returned fire prompting the armed men to enter the compound of Vice-Mayor Disono where they sought refuge. Gen. Carlos said that CCTV footages at the scene showed the real truth and nothing but the truth: the policemen were conducting a legitimate operation when their checkpoint was ignored and 2 officers were bumped.

Abra provincial forensic investigators who conducted an investigation at the Disono compound found the van with plate no. NDF 2499 and the body of a dead man later identified as Sandee Boy Bermudo, a 24-year old former Marine trooper from Bgy. Soutside in Makati City.

Also recovered inside the van were a caliber 9mm pistol with a magazine containing 20 live ammunition.

The body of Bermudo was subjected to an autopsy and paraffin test while the vehicle was brought to the Abra PPO headquarters for a bullet trajectory examination. Around 5 p.m. last Wednesday, 12 of the suspects finally surrendered accompanied by their Manila-based lawyer Raymund Fortun. The ex-military men are now under the custody of the Armed Forces pending the filing of charges against them.

That’s their difference with other armed lawbreakers: they have the chance to get a legal aid from a lawyer who can always fly to Abra. Brig. Gen. Lee told me it took him about 4-hours to reach Abra from Northern Luzon. If you are in Manila, it would take 8-9 hours to reach Abra by land barring any traffic or bad weather.