Guns, bullets seized from rebel suppliers traced to military

MANILA, Philippines – The P1.2 million worth of firearms and ammunition found with recently arrested "gunrunners" of the Maute and Abu Sayyaf Group have been traced to the arsenal of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

This was confirmed to reporters by Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Director General Oscar Albayalde after his press briefing on Monday, December 17.

Oo sa military, ‘di pa sure kung sa Army…Dapat maging concerned sila rito (Yes, it’s from the military, but we’re not sure if it’s from the Army…They should be concerned about this),” Albayalde said, when asked to clarify if they already considered the seized items as originally coming from the military.

Reporters spotted the packaging of the presented firearms and ammunition: Wooden boxes bearing the labels “AFP,” “GOVERNMENT PROPERTY,” and “PHILIPPINE ARMY.”

Albayalde said during the briefing that the suspects, Edgardo Medel and Rosemarie Medel, admitted to getting P1.2 million worth of firearms and ammunition from the military, particularly in Fort Magsaysay, Nueva Ecija, headquarters of the Army's 7th Infantry Division.

The police initially said they will verify the claim, but Albayalde later said the supplies indeed were traced to the military.

He noted that they have received numerous reports about bullets being taken from the military and handed to the very enemies they shoot it out with in the battlefield.

The Maute Group was behind the Marawi siege in 2017, and the Abu Sayyaf Group is the suspected orchestrator of a slew of bombings in Mindanao.

GOVERNMENT PROPERTY. Boxes where the seized guns and ammo were stored. Photo by Rambo Talabong/Rappler

GOVERNMENT PROPERTY. Boxes where the seized guns and ammo were stored.

Photo by Rambo Talabong/Rappler

Albayalde said the two suspects dropped the name of a “retired soldier” as their main supplier. The PNP refused to identify him.

The police suspect that either the guns and bullets from the AFP’s armory were smuggled out in batches by a former serviceman, or someone from the Medels have a connection with an active officer.

The bullets and the boxes have serial numbers, which should be easy to trace to soldiers or units that had handled them.

Albayalde noted that some of them are “green-tips” or penetrator bullets that are specially designed for elite units of the military.

It remains unclear whether the Medel couple is part of a bigger organization that sources its supplies from the Philippine government. Their tipster, police said, have only named the two so far.

The top cop vowed to closely coordinate with the military on the investigation. The Army chief, Lieutenant General Macairog Alberto, is Albayalde’s classmate from the Philippine Military Academy Sinagtala Class of 1986. – Rappler.com

Rambo Talabong

Rambo Talabong covers security, crime, and the city of Manila for Rappler. He was chosen as a Jaime V. Ongpin Fellow in 2019 for his reporting on President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs.

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