CRUSADERS OR RACKETEERS? – 12 anti-crime, anti-corruption ‘advocates’ nabbed in Guimaras

CHIEF Insp. Sheila Marie Sardoma, Jordan PNP chief of police, presents the firearms, vehicles, and other items seized from Task Force Crusaders members in an interview on July 5, 2017. The so-called Crusaders were collared for mounting an illegal raid. (Ricky D. Alejo)

TWELVE members of Task Force Crusaders against Crimes, Illegal Drugs, Corruption and Terrorism were arrested in the island-province of Guimaras evening of July 4, 2017 for allegedly posing as police officers and illegal possession of firearms.

In an interview on July 5, Chief Insp. Sheila Marie Sardoma, Jordan PNP chief of police, said the Jordan Municipal Police Station (MPS) received a distress call around 6:30 p.m. Tuesday from the household of Ferdinand Ronzales of Sitio Sal-agan, Poblacion, Jordan.

Allegedly, three masked persons in civilian clothes arrived on board a single motorcycle and barged into the Ronzales household and fired their guns.

The Jordan PNP responded to the scene and arrested three persons who claimed to be members of Task Force Crusaders (TFC).

They were later identified as Alfredo Ticar, 51, of Jereos, Lapaz and Nelwin Telleran, 35, of Brgy PHHC, Mandurriao in Iloilo City; and Loreto Rendon, 53, of Brgy. Sambag, Zarraga, Iloilo.

Shortly after the arrest of the three TFC members, seven more men arrived at the police station: Angel Allado Jr., 47 and Rommel Baniola, 32, both of Pavia, Iloilo; Larry Agrabio, 42, Poblacion Ilawod, Passi City, Iloilo; Jose Gerald Ausin, 46, Sinikway, Lapuz; Juanito, Magbanua, 61, of Mandurriao; Refrain Flor, 41, Commission Civil, Jaro; and Eldy Flores, 47, Tagbak, Jaro, all in Iloilo City.

“They are fully armed, in plain view, with guns in their holsters,” Sardoma said.

The lady police chief then ordered the seven men frisked and they recovered seven short firearms.

Shortly after, two more men arrived – Rodolfo Andrade, 66, Bolilao, Mandurriao and Ian Paclibar, 41, Alta Tierra, Jaro, both in Iloilo City.

“I also ordered them frisked, and we recovered knives in their possession,” Sardoma added.

Jordan PNP officially arrested a total of 12 men and recovered from them the following:

-10 short firearms including five caliber .45 pistols, two caliber .9mm pistol, one caliber .22 revolver, a caliber .357, and a caliber .38 revolvers

-two daggers and one Swiss knife;

-a handheld radio, identification cards, among others.

Sardoma said the 12 persons will be charged for violation of Republic Act 10591 (Comprehensive Firearm and Ammunition Act).

The Ronzales family plans to file cases for trespassing and grave threats, among other charges.

 

‘ILLEGAL MISSION’

The group, which is said to be under the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), told the police that they only implemented a mission order.

“They are alleging that they implemented a mission order because of the information that Ronzales is (allegedly) engaging in illegal gambling. But we are in a full alert status, and they did not coordinate (their operations) with the police,” Sardoma said.

With the implementation of the full alert status, Sardoma explained that all mission orders and even permit to carry firearms outside of residence is suspended except for law enforcers.

“They are not allowed to operate in a place without coordinating (the operations with the police), and at the same time, carrying these kinds of firearms,” she said.

Sardoma said only law enforcement agencies like the PNP can arrest a person or search a house.

“Only the police can have the warrant of arrest and search warrant. They don’t have that. Although they are alleging that they have a mission order, their order is illegal. They are issued firearms, but because of the full alert status, all their privileges are suspended,” she said.

While Sardoma is aware of the TFC’s existence, she said their operations are in Iloilo and Negros Occidental, and are limited to information and intelligence gathering only.

“I haven’t heard of their operations in Guimaras, this is the first time that we encounter them,” she said.

In the “mission order” cards dated July 1, 2017, which the police confiscated from the TFC members, it was indicated that they are in a “Mission Order #R6-2017-075” from July 1 to July 31, 2017. Their mission covers Regions 6 and 18, and must coordinate with PNP, PDEA, AFP, NBI, and other law enforcement agencies.

Sardoma said the group admitted to their mistakes.

“They are just overreacting. Kampante sila siguro and they feel that kilala na sila, ginapasugtan lang sila ng operations nila before, without knowing that they are violating the full alert status,” she said.

But Sardoma warned armed groups that the police will always enforce the law.

“If they will be here, appropriate action will be given to them by the PNP. We will abide by the law,” she said.

Meanwhile, Sardoma assured the public that Jordan and Guimaras is safe.

“This (incident) seldom happens here. Even the illegal drugs situation, it is very minimal compared to other provinces,” she said.

“The public and the tourists need not worry, Guimaras is a safe and orderly province,” she concluded.

 

TF CRUSADERS

In an earlier interview, Paclibar explained that TF Crusaders was created Aug. 11, 2016 under the OSG, and is headed by retired Army general Romeo Maganto, an OSG consultant.

Based on their IDs, Paclibar is the Region 6 “Regional Commander”, Ausin is the “Provincial Commander”, Magbanua is the “Admin Officer”, and the rest are “Operatives”.

The group is composed of volunteers, mostly retired police, military and NBI personnel.

Paclibar said TFC is the “eye of President Duterte”. It conducts data gathering and case build-up, then refers the issue to the concerned government agencies like the Ombudsman.

The group can file cases against the erring government officials based on the results of their own illicit probe, COA reports, among others.

The group claimed it has helped in the intelligence gathering of the PNP and PDEA with regard drug operations/personalities in the region.

In their ID cards, these words are printed as the group’s battlecry: “We are the Crusaders for Truth, Justice and Peace. We take challenges for the love of God, our country and fellowmen. We are willing to Die so that others may live in Peace.”

The Daily Guardian asked the 12 arrested persons for their side of the story but they said they will wait for their legal counsel first before issuing statements.

 

CRUSADERS?

In an earlier interview, John Chiong, former commander of the defunct TFC-Negros Occidental, said they dissolved their old group after it was marred with corruption aside from alleged links to illegal drugs.

Chiong and several former TFC members then formed Task Force Kasanag to sever links to TFC.

Manny Villaera, TFK deputy for operations, said they cannot afford to lose their real crusade to help the government address major problems, especially criminality, illegal drugs, and corruption.

Villaera said some TFC members acted more for their personal interest rather than helping the government “that is why some of them got involved in criminality.”

He added that some TFC members allegedly extorted money from Maguindanao Governor Esmael Mangudadatu while three others were allegedly involved in illegal drug operations in Iloilo.

“We will continue with the real crusade of helping address complaints of some citizens like what they were doing under the original organization Task Force Kasanag. This is a sort of a cleansing in the organization,” he said.

In an interview with RMN-Iloilo on July 5, Chiong said the Office of the Solicitor General has clarified that it never deputized or authorized TFC to conduct police-like operations.

Chiong said the group was supposed to focus on gathering information and help file cases but it was never allowed to act like law enforcers.

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