By Zaldy Comanda
LA TRINIDAD, Benguet — Eight men tagged by police as members of a gun-running and land-grabbing syndicate were arrested by police in a recent raid that also resulted in the seizure of a cache of high-powered firearms in Tuba, this province.
Chief Superintendent Rolando Nana, police regional director in Cordillera, said the raid in Sitio Barakbak, Barangay Ansagan, Tuba, in the morning of September 25 was conducted by joint elements of the Municipal Police Station, the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG), and the Police Mobile Force Company (PMFC) and supported by a search warrant.
Nana said the search resulted in the confiscation of six loose firearms and assorted ammunition.
Arrested were Reymund Barbero Bagni, Gordon Jackson Walis, Gilbert Balacdey Loreto, Shobert Sumalnap Ubuagan, Eljhon Ubuagan Sumalnao, Florencio Ayao Beronilla, Dearly Langgi Beronilla, and Jerome Berona Guerrero, all residents or natives of Sallapadan, Abra.
Nana said Bagni, a former rebel commander of the New People’s Army (NPA) who surrendered to authorities during the Marcos regime, stood as their leader.
The other suspects, he said, were former fighters of the defunct Cordillera People’s Liberation Army (CPLA) who have allegedly resorted to gun-running and land-grabbing.
During the raid, they yielded three shotguns; two.22-caliber rifles; one M-16 rifle; and an assortment of firearm magazines and bullets.
Nana said the group has come to be known as the “Bagni Group,” which has allegedly been hired by some influential individuals in the region to do “dirty work.”
He said that when the raiding team swooped down on the bailiwick of the group, police also received 26 firearms surrendered by the community.