The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) today said that joint elements of the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) arrested some 35 suspects who identified themselves as members of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) in Rizal and were caught illegally discharging firearms and engaged in illegal paramilitary training.
DILG Secretary Eduardo M. Año said that based on reports from barangay officials of Brgy. Guinayang, San Mateo, Rizal, the suspects who are not residents of the area, set up camp in the upper portion of the barangay, and were seen indiscriminately discharging firearms and in a formation in what appeared to be a paramilitary training.
He said this prompted combined elements of the PNP Rizal Provincial Police Office (PPO) and the 80th Infantry Battalion (IB) to conduct a joint operation which led to the arrest of the group led by a certain Lydia Panuelo.
Año said that police and army operatives caught most of the group members illegally wearing military uniforms while in formation and violating Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) guidelines on minimum health protocols (i.e not wearing face masks and face shields and disregarding physical distancing).
“Wearing of AFP and PNP uniforms by civilians is already a violation of the law. We will make sure that these people will be penalized. Pinababaklas ko na rin sa mga barangay officials at sa LGU ang mga illegal structures na tinayo nila sa lugar," he said.
Meanwhile, PNP Calabarzon Chief P/BGen Felipe Natividad said that a certain Deogenes Rodriguez reportedly talked to the group and promised to give P300K to each of the member after their training "prior to deployment to Mindanao".
Natividad said that unlike the real members of the MNLF, they did not speak any Arabic or any Mindanao language but are mostly fluent in Tagalog. Both the PNP and AFP are now validating their alleged affiliation with the MNLF.
Año called on the public to immediately report similar incidents to the proper authorities and to refrain from joining such activities as they will be dealt with the full force of the law.
“Sa ating mga kababayan, maging mapanuri po tayo sa mga sasalihang grupo. Huwag po basta-basta maengganyo sa mga pangako ng mga nanghihikayat na grupo,” he said.
Recovered from the operation are two caliber 45 pistols in their possession, several ammunition, assorted army uniforms, five handheld radios and a jungle knife.
The DILG Chief said that the suspects are now detained at the San Mateo Municipal Police Station and cases for Violation of Republic Act (RA) 11332, RA 10591 and Usurpation of Public Authority are now being prepared for filing before the Prosecutor’s Office.