Government security forces arrested some 35 suspects who identified themselves as members of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) in Rizal who were caught illegally discharging firearms and were conducting illegal paramilitary training.
Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Eduardo M. Año, in a news release, said based on reports from officials of Barangay Guinayang, San Mateo, Rizal, the suspects who are not residents of the area, set up a camp in the upper portion of the barangay, and were seen indiscriminately discharging firearms and in a formation in what appeared to be a paramilitary training.
He said this prompted combined elements of the Rizal Provincial Police Office (PPO) and the 80th Infantry Battalion (IB) to conduct a joint operation which led to the arrest of the group led by a certain Lydia Panuelo.
Año said police and Army operatives caught most of the group members illegally wearing military uniforms while in formation and violating Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) guidelines on minimum health protocols (i.e. not wearing face masks and face shields and disregarding physical distancing).
“Wearing of AFP and PNP uniforms by civilians is already a violation of the law. We will make sure that these people will be penalized. Pinababaklas ko na rin sa mga barangay officials at sa LGU ang mga illegal structures na tinayo nila sa lugar (I also ordered barangay officials and the LGU to dismantle the illegal structures that they set up in the area),” he said.
Meanwhile, PNP Calabarzon director, Brig. Gen. Felipe Natividad, said that a certain Deogenes Rodriguez reportedly talked to the group and promised to give P300,000 to each of the member after their training “prior to deployment to Mindanao”.
Natividad said unlike the real members of the MNLF, they did not speak any Arabic nor Mindanao language but are mostly fluent in Tagalog. Both the PNP and AFP are now validating their alleged affiliation with the MNLF.
Año called on the public to immediately report similar incidents to the proper authorities and to refrain from joining such activities as they will be dealt with the full force of the law. SOVEREIGNPH