Ex-Arayat town mayor, 4 others arrested over guns, drugs

ARAYAT, Pampanga – Five persons including a former town mayor and barangay chairman believed to be members of a private armed group led by the former local chief executive have been arrested during a dawn raid on Wednesday at Barangay Cacutud here.

Initial police report have it that a member of the raiding team assigned with the PNP Special Action Force detailed at Subic Bay Freeport, was wounded during a brief but fierce exchange of gunfire between the group of ex-Arayat Mayor Luisito “Chito” Espino and government security forces.

The raiding team composed of 3rd Criminal Investigation and Detection Unit and local police in this town served a search warrant against Espino for alleged illegal possession of firearms and prohibited drugs.

3CIDU operatives backed by two V-150 armored tanks barged inside the residential compound of Espino past 5 a.m., but were faced with heavy resistance from occupants. Exchange of gunfire lasted for about 10 minutes, said Supt. Samuel Sevilla, Arayat police chief.

When smoked was cleared, Sevilla said a member of the PNP-SAF was found sprawled on the ground bloodied. Medics rushed the wounded cop to a nearby hospital.

Aside from Espino, Barangay Cacutud chairman Rosendo Dizon and three other were also arrested. Seized from their possessions include an M16 assault rifle, three pieces of calibre .45 pistol; a 9mm calibre pistol; three hand grenades, volumes of ammunition for different kinds of firearms and six sachets carrying white crystalline substance believed to be methamphetamine hydrochloride (shabu).

Espino served six years as chief executive in this town. He was defeated by Mayor Bon Alejandrino in the 2007 elections.

“The raid was a project of 3CIDU and the local police served as back-up of the operating unit,” said Sevilla.

Espino and four other suspects were brought to Pampanga Criminal Investigation and Detection Team (CIDT) field office for further investigation. Violation of illegal possession of firearms and Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act are being readied against them.

In September last year, police and anti-narcotics operatives had discovered the mega shabu laboratory at the foot of Mount Arayat in Barangay Lacquios. The raiding team found seven large hyrogenerators that can reportedly manufacture 50 to 100 kilograms of shabu per day.