Mayor, 8 aides detained in road gun mess with Ecija gov, PNP chief

>> Wednesday, May 18, 2022

SAN ANTONIO, Nueva Ecija -- Eight aides of this town's mayor were arrested for violating the Commission on Elections gun ban night before the May 9 election day, town police here said.
    Police said Mayor Arvin Salonga and town budget officer Armando Cruz voluntarily surrendered to authorities on May 8.
    Lt. Franklyn Sindac, provincial head of the public information office, in a telephone interview, said provincial assistant prosecutor Edison Rafanan personally went to the municipal hall to investigate the suspects.
    Sindac said the prosecutor was still determining whether Salonga, Cruz and the mayor's bodyguards can post bail despite being caught in possession of high-powered weapons.
    The police said the incident took place at around 9 p.m. on May 8.
    Witnesses said Salonga was leading a convoy of seven vehicles, all with sirens blinking, when his entourage stopped as armed aides stepped out of the vehicles to question two minors, both girls, for not wearing masks in public.
    "The girls got scared when they saw the guns of the bodyguards, and they sought help," a witness said.
    "The minors texted mayoral candidate Agripino Javier, a retired police general, who immediately went to the scene of the incident to help the two girls, who turned out to be his nieces."
    When Javier arrived at the scene, one of the cars (Mitsubishi Montero, UUI 774) from his convoy accidentally hit a vehicle (Toyota Land Cruiser without license plate with conduction sticker AS 0412) that was part of Salonga's group.
    The police said tensions arose from the "accident."
    The police said Salonga did not step out from his car even as at least 90 policemen led by Col. Jess Mendez, Nueva Ecija police provincial director, arrived at the scene.
    Salonga disembarked from his vehicle at 11:30 p.m. along with his budget officer and one of his bodyguards, Joseph "Golden Boy" Guinto, when Nueva Ecija Gov. Aurelio Umali arrived.
    The three suspects reportedly surrendered peacefully and were brought to the police station where they were investigated by Maj. Abraham Atencio, San Antonio chief of police.
    The other suspects who were arrested were identified as Benedicto Figueroa, 52; Rances John Lozada, 24; Jerick Santos, 25; Herbert Bundalian, 32; Garry Vicente, 37; and Arturo Garcia, 26, all residents of San Antonio; and Arnold Mariano, 36, a resident of General Tinio town.
    Also apprehended was Cpl. Edgardo Nitoliano, 36, from the Regional Mobile Force and a resident of Barangay Poblacion, San Antonio, whose assignment was still being validated as of this writing.
    Seized from the suspects were one Armscor.45 caliber pistol with an allegedly tampered serial number, one Armscor Cal. 9 mm pistol, one Glock 9mm pistol, one Colt Cal. 45, one Cal. 45 Para Ordnance, a Maverick shotgun, one M16 A1 rifle, six assorted ID cards, one Philippine National Police identification card, three hand-held radios and six bulletproof vests.
    Charges for violation of Republic Act 10591 in relation to Section 261 of the Omnibus Election Code of the Philippines were prepared against suspects.



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