By Martin Sadongdong
Suspected members of two organized crime syndicates (OCSs) allegedly being used by some politicians as their private armies have been neutralized by authorities, the Philippine National Police (PNP) revealed on Monday.
Albayalde said five members of the Peralta Group were arrested by elements of the Anti-Kidnapping Group (PNP-AKG) in separate operations in Northern and Central Luzon late last month. Meanwhile, members of Alvero Group had been gunned down by elements of Laguna police in San Pablo City over the weekend.
“These two groups both provide services as private armed groups to some politicians and their activities are sustained by proceeds from illegal drugs and kidnapping for ransom,” Albayalde said in a press conference at Camp Crame in Quezon City.
However, Albayalde said they cannot divulge the identities of the politicians because their ongoing validation might be compromised.
He said most of these politicians are governors and mayors who have expressed intentions to run in the 2019 elections.
“As of now, we cannot divulge the names of these politicians. We have intelligence information that needs to be confirmed and validated. Hindi lang natin basta-basta masabi ‘yung pangalan ng mga pulitiko (It’s just that we cannot immediately drop the names of these politicians),” he stated.
According to AKG director, Chief Supt. Glenn Dumlao, the Peralta Group is a gun-running syndicate operating in Northern and Central Luzon.
Dumlao said they were supposed to arrest the group’s leader, Ricardo Peralta, in an operation after extracting information from one of the previously apprehended members of the group, Armando dela Cruz, that they have a safehouse in Echague, Isabela.
However, only the other members of the group were found in the safehouse, Dumlao said.
He identified the arrested suspects as Dennis Matias, Mary Ann Mallari, Raymond Dequina, John Lana and Jackie Lou Isidro.
The Peralta group is tagged in at least five kidnap-for-ransom cases, most victims were killed, and 20 high-profile gun-for-hire activities with 26 slain victims in Nueva Ecija, Bulacan, Tarlac, Metro Manila, and Cagayan Valley.
Among their victims are Hermosa, Bataan councilor Danilo Basi in April 2017; former Abra Vice Gov. Rolando Somera in June 2017; Makati City councilor Dodong Bagang in May 2014; and Doña Remedios Trinidad, Bulacan Mayor Esteban Paulino in December 2000.
The most recent operation of the group is the double murder of certain Jeric Ventosa and Neilson Espiritu on October 6, 2018 in Cabanatuan, Nueva Ecija.
Peralta, according to AKG, is the subject of several arrest warrants for multiple murder, kidnapping, carnapping, highway robbery, and brigandage. He is also a co-accused of former Gapan, Nueva Ecija Mayor Ernesto Natividad in the killing of Ericson and Ebertson Pascual at a town cockpit in 2006.
Dumlao said they recovered from the suspects two assault rifles, two handguns, a carbine conversion kit, 22 different ATM and credit cards, four mobile phones, a shotgun, a grenade, two improvised explosive devices and three sports utility vehicles (SUVs).
Police are now hunting down Peralta, Dumlao said.
Meanwhile, Chief Supt. Edward Carranza said the suspected leader of the Alvero gun-for-hire group and drug syndicate, Christopher Alvero, was killed when elements of San Pablo City Police Station implemented a search warrant in a compound in Barangay San Ignacio on Saturday. Two unidentified men, said to be cohorts of Alvero, were also killed in the operation.
In an earlier Manila Bulletin report, Alvero was described by the Laguna police as the Top 8 in the provincial police’s high-value target (HVT) list who holds the distributors illegal drugs in San Pablo and other nearby municipalities.
Carranza said their operation stemmed from a shooting incident near a warehouse of National Food Authority (NFA) on September 30, 2018. Three drug suspects were killed in the said incident.
“The operation that triggered the application of search warrant in San Pablo City was the September 30 incident wherein the Alvero group shot and killed three persons in a drug den near [an] NFA warehouse. When the report reached me, I have instructed the chief of police of San Pablo to dig deeper into the shooting incident because the shooting was done na parang walang takot yung kriminal [as if the criminals fear no one],” Carranza explained.
“With this development, tuluy-tuloy ang effort ng San Pablo City and they were able to identify this Alvero group who are into drug trade and the persons they have killed near the NFA warehouse were their former runners who failed to remit on time,” he added.
Albayalde praised the efforts of the PNP-AKG and Calabarzon Police Regional Office to operate against organized crime groups involved in illegal drugs and gun-for-hire activities, including private armed groups and its criminal support systems.
“These two successful operations, in no small measure, will lessen possible election-related violence in the forthcoming 2019 national elections by neutralizing private armed groups and taking away instruments of violence used for political purposes,” he noted.