ARMS HAUL. High-powered firearms seized from big-time gunrunner John Christian Bautista are presented at the Northern Police District on Wednesday (June 16, 2021). PNP chief Gen. Guillermo Eleazar has ordered a probe to determine whether Bautista is part of a gunrunning syndicate. (Photo courtesy of PNP)

MANILA – The Philippine National Police (PNP) has ordered a deeper probe on the suspect who yielded several high-powered firearms and ammunition in an operation in Pasay City earlier this week.

PNP chief Gen. Guillermo Eleazar on Thursday said this is to determine whether suspect John Christian Bautista, who was arrested by Northern Police District (NPD) operatives in an entrapment operation in Pasay City on Tuesday, is part of a gunrunning syndicate.

“If he is part of a group, we have to track down the other members. Northern Police District (NPD) investigators are also looking into the possible recipients of the high-powered firearms seized from the suspect. Kailangan malaman ng ating mga imbestigador ang pagkakakilanlan ng mga customers nitong suspek (Our investigators need to know the identities of this suspect’s customers),” Eleazar said in a statement.

Reports said Bautista, a resident of Imus, Cavite has long been involved in gunrunning activities in Metro Manila, Region 4-A, and other adjacent provinces.

Hindi biro ang taas ng kalibre ng mga baril na ibinebenta ng suspek. Baka sa mga sindikato o mga kriminal niya ito inilalako (The high-powered guns sold by the suspect cannot be treated as a joke. He might be selling these to syndicates or criminals),” Eleazar said.

He added that investigators are also looking into how the suspect acquired the high-powered guns and was able to sell them online without raising alarms.

“Our investigators are also piecing together the system Bautista has been using to evade detection of his gunrunning activities. He has been in business for over three years,” he said.

He added that investigation further showed that these firearms were delivered through courier service.

"Aalamin natin kung paano ito nakalusot nang hindi nalalaman ng courier service na kontrabando ang idine-deliver nito. (We will find out how it got through without the courier service knowing that the contraband was being delivered),” Eleazar said.

He reminded courier service providers to be wary of items they are delivering and make sure that the packages do not contain illegal items.

The operation that led to Bautista's arrest stemmed from information received by the NPD's Special Operations Unit (SOU) from a concerned citizen regarding a Facebook chat group where there is an ongoing transaction or sale of firearms from among its members who are gun enthusiasts.

After pretending as an interested buyer, a member of the SOU was able to connect with the suspect.

Upon validation of the suspect's activities, the transaction for the sale of firearms was finalized and they agreed to meet up at a gas station along Macapagal Avenue, Pasay City at around 11 a.m. on Tuesday.

Recovered from the suspect were a Thompson submachine gun .45 caliber M1 with serial number 175291 with one magazine; MGV 176 .22 caliber LR with serial number 3037; STI 9mm with serial number KF 11205; a Cobra Special .38 caliber with no serial number; a .40 caliber Smith and Wesson with serial number NEH 8367 and a .45 caliber Colt with serial number 38720.

The DSOU operatives were able to establish contact with the wife of the suspect and were informed about the arrest of her husband.

She said she is willing to surrender the remaining firearms kept by her husband at their residence.

The SOU operatives proceeded to the suspect's residence to facilitate the surrender of the firearms which was witnessed by a village official.

The surrendered firearms include a Shotgun Mossberg T with serial number 851464; an MA Carbine 5.56 caliber with serial number 123561; a US Carbine with defaced serial number; a .22 TCM rifle with serial number TR008777; a sniper rifle with defaced serial number; a performance SRT-SW with defaced serial number; a Taurus with serial number NDX 91540, and an assorted box of ammunition and magazines. (PNA)