TWELVE barangay tanods (village watchmen) were arrested for brandishing firearms in Lambunao, Iloilo shortly before midnight of May 12, 2019.
The suspects were identified as Remegio Libuna, 59; Jose Lavente, 62, Robert Cabolico, 53; Johny Lebuna, Jr., 34; Elmer Legarde, 43; Bernarbe Larroza, 35; Sunny Boy Latoza, 49; Ernesto Legarde, 56; Carlos Esmaya, 64; Ernesto Lastimoso, 58; Federico Compliza, 48; and Johny Lebuna, Sr., 57.
All are residents of Barangay Jayobo, Lambunao town.
Recovered from the suspects were six homemade 12-gauge shotguns, three caliber .45 pistols, a caliber .38 revolver, a caliber .22 revolver, a caliber .30 break-type, and 72 assorted ammunition.
Members of the Lambunao Police Station, Iloilo Police Provincial Office (IPPO) Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team, and IPPO Special Operations Group (SOG) responded to the area after they received reports of armed men roaming in the village.
According to Police Major Rene Obregon, Lambunao police chief, they received a report that the group of Barangay Captain Milky Lira and more than 30 barangay tanods were conducting their own checkpoint in front of the barangay hall.
Jayobo is more than 20 kilometers from the town proper and is considered a vote-rich village. It keeps around 115 tanods and has at least 35 tanods roving per shift.
The suspects allegedly placed a tanod checkpoint at the villages entry point.
The arrested tanods claimed the checkpoint is for them to protect their villagers from being harassed by the other camp.
According to reports, Lira is an ally of mayoralty candidate Reynor Gonzales.
A retired police general, Gonzales served as Lambunaos mayor for three terms until 2016 when his son, Jayson, succeeded his post.
Lira allegedly wanted to deliver a win for Gonzales by preventing other camps from campaigning at Jayobo.
But police have yet to confirm such information as Lira and 21 other bagangay tanods managed to flee before Lambunao and SWAT policemen arrived.
He left behind his Nissan Patrol SUV (license plate (XMS-397).
From the outside, Obregon said they saw at least two 12-gauge shotguns, an M16 Armalite rifle, and a bandolier.
As of Monday afternoon, Obregons team has yet to secure a search warrant to check on Liras vehicle.
In the meantime, charges for violation of Republic Act 10591 (Comprehensive Firearms and Ammunition Act) are being readied against the suspects.