Raps filed vs group eyed in destab plot

Rey Galupo, Edu Punay - The Philippine Star
Raps filed vs group  eyed in destab plot
National Bureau of Investigation deputy director Vicente de Guzman (left) and his team present a cache of weapons, explosives, and ammunition seized from three Chinese nationals led by Lily Ong (standing 4th from left) and Filipino caretakers during a news conference in Manila yesterday.
Edd Gumban

MANILA, Philippines — Six people linked to a supposed destabilization plot were arrested and charged by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) yesterday.

NBI deputy director Vicente de Guzman Jr. said NBI operatives and troops from the Army’s 80th Infantry Battalion also seized a cache of high powered firearms from the suspects during the raid on a six-hectare farm in Barangay Dalig, Teresa, Rizal on Tuesday.

Chinese businesswoman Lily Ong, Brandy Solinap, Victor dela Cruz, Diosdado Bohol, Bi-Eian Ke and Ke Quiao Li were presented to the media yesterday and later charged with illegal possession of firearms and explosives before the prosecutor’s office.

The military linked the arrested individuals to the communist New People’s Army (NPA), citing surveillance operations showing the suspects were often visited by known rebel leaders in the region.

Lt. Col. Melencio Ragudo said they were applying for a search warrant against Ong, a known NPA supporter, when they learned the NBI was also targeting the farm “on another concern.” 

“It was a joint operation on a specific target, but they were following up on a case while we have intel report that this group could be preparing something,” Ragudo said.

“Of course it goes without saying that they know why we’re there and we know why they’re there, but those things are classified,” Ragudo said, referring to the NBI’s operation.

The NBI, on the other hand, has no similar information yet on the group. NBI officials said their operation in Teresa was in connection with a complaint of a businessman against Ong and company for death threats stemming from a land dispute.

“We were actually following up on the complaint of (a) businessman, but we stumbled into this,” De Guzman said.

Asked why the military accompanied them during the raid, De Guzman said they have information the target area was rebel-infested and “we do not want to be massacred.”

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said he has yet to receive the official report of the NBI on the case.

The NBI said they would still verify information on the reported involvement of the suspects in the ouster plot.

“We cannot comment on whether this is related to the so-called ‘Red October’ plot until more facts are established,” Guevarra said.

De Guzman added they are looking into the military’s claim that Ong and her cohorts have linked up with the NPA in the Red October plot to oust President Duterte.

“We still have to process that information and the military has yet to brief us on the matter. But since we are here already, I believe our investigation will go to that direction,” NBI deputy director Ferdinand Lavin added.

Maj. Gen. Rhoderick Parayno, commander of the Army’s 2nd Infantry Division, said they are conducting an investigation to see if the recent seizure of high-powered guns from Ong and her group and previous encounters with NPA rebels in Southern Luzon are connected to Red October.

“That’s what we are looking at. As I said, we are looking back at what we found in Batangas and Quezon to check if we missed anything,” he said.

Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Director General Oscar Albayalde ordered an investigation into Ong, linking her to the Red October ouster plot.

Albayalde said the Rizal provincial police had to explain the circumstances behind the raid and verify Ong’s allegation that she has been giving police officers P8,000 a month for protection. The woman alleged there were people who tried to kidnap her.

Ong also denied that she had anything to do with the Red October plot.

The STAR reported on Wednesday that the NBI has started its own probe on the ouster plot.

The NBI has started a fact-finding investigation to look into information from the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) that communist groups and opposition personalities are conniving to oust Duterte.

Guevarra said conspirators of the supposed plot would face sedition and coup d’etat charges.  

Just doing their job

Malacañang said the NBI probe on Red October was not intended to suppress critics of the administration.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said the NBI was just performing its mandate when it started its investigation on the anti-government plotters.

“The NBI was just doing its duty. They are determining if somebody violated the law so cases can be filed before the fiscal and the courts,” Roque said at a press briefing yesterday. “This is not a crackdown. It’s about duty.” 

Roque said those who would face charges over the Red October plot would be given due process.

“They would be given the opportunity to be heard and to respond,” he added.

Roque said Malacañang expects the military to cooperate with the NBI probe. 

“If the military has intel information, they should share it to the NBI so we would know who should be punished,” Roque said. 

“As I have said time and again, the job of the President as chief executive is to implement the laws. If somebody violates the laws on rebellion, coup d’état and sedition, let the process begin against them,” he said. 

Duterte previously said some soldiers are in touch with the communists and the opposition Liberal Party, a claim confirmed by acting interior secretary and former military chief Eduardo Año. 

Officials are confident that any attempt to overthrow the Duterte administration would not succeed because the President enjoys “overwhelming support” from the public. 

Roque said reports about the supposed involvement of soldiers in destabilization efforts should be verified but expressed optimism that the military remains loyal to the President. 

“He (Duterte) is the only president who doubled the salary of soldiers and policemen, the only president who went to camps to determine the needs of soldiers and policemen,” he added. 

AFP spokesman Col. Edgard Arevalo said the troops remain loyal to the Constitution, the law and the chain of command.      

“We assure our people that their Armed Forces of the Philippines is a professional organization that subscribes to the Constitution that it has sworn to uphold and to defend,” Arevalo said. – Alexis Romero, Cecille Suerte Felipe, Michael Punongbayan, Emmanuel Tupas



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