Soldier selling arms to 'state enemies' nabbed

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By Paul M. Gutierrez

JOINT operatives from the Philippine Army, Intelligence Service of the AFP (ISAFP) and the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) arrested an active member of the Philippine Army suspected of selling weapons and ammunition to “armed state enemies” and other lawless elements in Mindanao. Arrested last September 20 during a “takedown operation” at the headquarters of the Army’s 1st Cavalry Squadron in Camp Jacobo Zobel, Labangan, Zamboanga del Sur, was Technical Sergeant Santiago Caasi (803099), assigned at the Philippine Army’s 1st Mechanized Infantry Division.

Caasi, who is under the operational control of the 3rd Scout Ranger Battalion, Southern Command, based in Bgy. Kampo Uno, Lamitan, Basilan, was allegedly caught selling four M203 (grenade launcher) for P2,500 a piece at a “black market” in Lamitan.

Information gathered by the Isafp and Army Intelligence also disclosed that the soldier, who also uses the name, ‘Scout Sergeant Randy Cruz,’ had also managed to sell several pieces of M16 and M14 assault rifles in the area, which is a known lair of the terrorist Abu Sayaff Group (ASG).

However, sources declined to confirm if the suspect is also supplying the high-powered rifles and ammunition to the ASG, although it is one angle the military is looking into.

The ASG is now the target of a massive government campaign to put an end to the group’s terrorist acts.

Sources said the suspect, who is a native of Pangasinan, is being charged for violation of Article of War 85 or the “waster or unlawful disposition of military properties issued to soldiers.”

In a statement, the Army leadership said: “We encourage the public to give us information of such offenses through the ‘Army Hotline.’

“We also give due credence to anonymous but meritorious complaints.”

Sources said a deeper investigation is now being undertaken to identify other possible cohorts of Caasi in the military service.