MANILA - The Philippine National Police is investigating reports that there is a gun store in Marawi allegedly connected with Abu Sayyaf Leader Isnilon Hapilon, purportedly the emir of the Islamic State in Southeast Asia.
Senior Superintendent Valeriano de Leon, chief of the PNP-Firearms and Explosives Office (FEO), said they received information that Hapilon allegedly owned a gun store.
"The information provided to us ay sa kanya. Pinatutunayan ko na walang nakapangalang gun store under Hapilon [to] which we have given a permit," he said.
However, intelligence information from the ground said it is possible Hapilon could be connected to a gun store in Marawi.
“Another information came is that he’s using another one, another person. That information was just provided by our troops on the ground. It is being maintained by a tauhan niya na kapitan yata yon,” he said.
De Leon said there are 2 licensed gun stores in Marawi and Lanao based on FEO's records. Terrorists have reportedly ransacked the gun store in Marawi.
Authorities are still investigating the alleged connection between Hapilon and the gun store owner, who could be a sympathizer.
“We have provided some of the facts, but they have not given us feedback kung this is true or not. Kasi kung binigyan na nila kami ng pangalan, sasabihin namin kung he is duly licensed or not, at kapag binigyan kami ng magandang ebidensiya, baka we might cancel the license,” he said.
The FEO is looking into the firearms recovered in Marawi and Lanao.
“Like for example the 27 firearms that were recovered in Lanao, only one is registered; the others are not in the series of rescue operations. Others are expired so yung iniimbestigahan nila, kami naman ay nagbibigay ng kaukulang data, information about firearms. Iba-ibang tao. Under the new law, dapat kung pangangalaga mo yon, you will be accountable and answerable to the new government why these firearms are being recovered sa mga threat groups,” he said.
The FEO is checking the owners of the recovered guns in their database, but said most of the guns have their serial numbers erased.
“Meron yung defaced, meron yung tampered, yung iba naman ay wala, talagang ginawa lang nila doon. Paltik,” de Leon said.
The FEO said it is their mandate to identify the owners of the guns recovered in Marawi.
“Kaya nga pag me tama bina-ballistics natin, ino-autopsy natin kapag these firearms were used during the encounter. If these were given or provided to the threat groups. But if these were recovered in the residence, probably hindi siguro, depending on the circumstances,“ he said.
Meanwhile, the PNP-FEO has given the local police of Lanao del Sur a list of people who are authorized to carry firearms in the region under Martial Law.
“We have contact with our law enforcers in Marawi particularly in Lanao, binigyan ko na rin sila ng mga listahan ng mga may baril nang sa ganon ay mabigyan sila ng caution, deposit to us. Bear in mind that Mindanao is under Martial Law so yung pagdadala ng baril ay momentarily suspended for everyone,“ he said. With a report from Henry Atuelan, DZMM