‘Guns-for-hire’ nabbed

TWO suspected members of the Epogon gun-for-hire robbery group, Eduard Acopan and Gerald Batoy were arrested at Barangay Guiljungan, Cauayan in Negros Occidental Saturday for illegal possession of firearms, ammunitions, and explosives. (Photo courtesy of Cauayan Municipal Police Station)

By: Glazyl Y. Masculino

BACOLOD City – Military troopers and police officers in Cauayan, Negros Occidental prevented a robbery hold-up following the arrest of two alleged members of the Epogon robbery hold-up and gun-for-hire group at Barangay Guiljungan last Saturday.

Personnel of Cauayan Municipal Police Station and troops of the Army’s 15th Infantry Battalion arrested Eduard Acopan, 34, of La Castellana town; and Gerald Batoy, 32, of Himamaylan City.

Police Major Lowell Garinganao, town police chief, said the duo was arrested after a week of surveillance work.

“When our intelligence operative and asset confirmed the suspects’ plan of targeting a businessman at Barangay Tililing that day, we immediately launched an operation to arrest them,” he added.

Garinganao said police were tailing the two suspects after they were sighted carrying firearms while riding a jeepney.

“When they disembarked from the vehicle, police immediately arrested them. The suspects did not resist,” he added.

Authorities recovered from the suspects a .45-caliber pistol, a magazine with six live ammunition, another caliber .45 (Springfield Armory Genesis) firearm with a magazine loaded with five live ammunitions, an empty magazine, and 23 live ammunitions.

A hand grenade was also recovered from Acopan’s backpack.

Garinganao said they have confirmed the links of Acopan and Batoy to the Epogon group based on text messages in their cellular phones, which were recovered during their arrest.

He said that the supposed victim was also robbed a few years ago but they don’t know if the same group committed the crime.

The town police chief said Acopan is a municipal employee in Hinigaran town after he was hired as a market guard a month ago while Batoy is a member of the Barangay Peacekeeping Action Team (BPAT) in Cabanbanan village in Himamaylan City, and also working as an overseer in a hacienda in the same city.

Garinganao also claimed that the suspects were behind recent robbery hold-up incidents in Cauayan and Moises Padilla, based on the descriptions given by the victims to the police and based on the text messages they exchanged with other members of the Epogon group.

He said the group became inactive for a while after police previously launched intensified operations against their members.

Some of their members and even their leader were previously arrested, but the group recruited new members, including Batoy, to continue with their operations particularly in the southern part of the province, Garinganao added.

Garinganao also said that the group victimized lending collectors and operated in the towns of Cauayan, Moises Padilla, Isabela, La Castellana, Hinigaran, and Sipalay City.

Acopan is facing a frustrated murder case in Hinigaran town while Batoy is allegedly engaging in the illegal drug trade.

The Himamaylan City Police Station also tagged Batoy as a newly-identified drug personality.

“We are continuously tracing their background to check their other links with other members who are scattered in various areas in the province,” Garinganao added.

Garinganao said Batoy told the police that he just met Acopan recently and was hired for the operation.

Both suspects will be charged for illegal possession of firearms and ammunition.

Additional charges for illegal possession of explosive will also be filed against Acopan.