A SHIPMENT of about 6,700 rounds of ammunition for high-caliber arms and assault rifles from Metro Manila to Mindanao was intercepted by police and military agents at a port in Cagayan de Oro Thursday, law enforcement officials said Friday.
Two handlers of the cargo and a member of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front were arrested after the shipment—thousands of M60 caliber bullets and four rounds for the M203 grenade launchers—was seized.
This was the second shipment of ammunition and firearms intercepted after authorities arrested four members of a gun running syndicate supplying arms to the Abu Sayyaf Group.
The arms cache, worth about P6 million, included M203 grenade launchers, M14 rifles, M16 assault rifles and several boxes of ammunition. Two of the rifles were traced to the government arsenal.
Supt. Tom Tuzon, regional chief of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group for Region 10, said the cargo was seized after they received a tip from military intelligence.
Tuzon said the two suspects planned to transport the ammunition and grenade launchers to Cagayan de Oro City, on a Philtranco bus on a roll-on roll-off vessel.
The ammunition was to be delivered to a gun shop in Marawi City, Lanao del Sur.
The Abu Sayyaf, the object of a relentless military campaign, has splinted into smaller groups after suffering heavy casualties, and is running out of ammunition, officials said.
They added that the ASG is looking for new weapons and ammunition to sustain the fight against the military, which is scouring suspect Abu Sayyaf lairs in the hinterlands of Sulu and Basilan provinces.
Police arrested Amer S. Macarangal and Jabar M. Mangadag at the Agora Bus Terminal in Cagayan de Oro. They carried other ID cards showing them to be Arimao Amer Sultan and Batawi Aratok Orangaga, with addresses in Butig, Lanao del Sur.
Butig is the base of the Maute Group which until recently pledged their allegiance to Isnilon Hapilon, purportedly the de facto leader of the Islamic State in the country.
The mountains of Butig are also the site of two of this year’s bloodiest military operations—one in February where almost 60 followers of Maute were killed, including Indonesian bomb expert Mohammed Muktar.
CIDG-10 chief investigator Senior Police Officer 4 Noel Oclarit said they intercepted the Philtranco bus around 9 a.m.Thursday, and arrested Macarangal and Mangadag after they claimed the shipped boxes.
“When we got the information and validated that the shipped boxes arrived on board the bus, we waited to see who would claim them,” Oclarit said.
Capt. Joe Patrick Martinez, spokesman of the 4th Infantry Division of the Army said the success of the interception was facilitated by the sharing of information and coordination with law enforcement agencies and the military.
“We have intensified our intelligence gathering, considering the situation after the Davao bombing and the declaration of the state of lawlessness, in the hope of cutting off the supply of war materiel to armed groups in Mindanao,” Martinez said.