Iloilo crime gang leader, 4 others nabbed in Ne­gros

No blood was shed in the ar­rest of Iloilo's most no­to­ri­ous crim­i­nal gang leader, and his four co­horts, at Barangay Pobla­cion in Hi­nobaan town of Ne­gros Oc­ci­den­tal on Thurs­day af­ter­noon.

The Freeman - - REGION - Jen­nifer P. Ren­don, Cor­re­spon­dent

The sus­pect, 62-yearold Ar­turo Balume Sr. alias Mas­ter Pedik, of Barangay Bato in Sara, Iloilo, was ar­rested 5:30. p.m. along with his wife Honey Grace, his son Ar­turo Jr., 27, and wife Pamela, 23, and the lat­ter's brother, Ryan Cain­glet, 29.

The el­der Balume has been tagged as the leader of the Balume Crim­i­nal Gang and was be­lieved to be a sub-group mem­ber of the late drug lord Melvin Odicta op­er­at­ing in Iloilo prov­ince, Iloilo City, Capiz, and Ne­gros Oc­ci­den­tal. Aside from il­le­gal drugs in­volve­ment, the group has been known to be en­gaged in gun-for-hire ac­tiv­i­ties.

Joint el­e­ments of the Re­gional In­tel­li­gence Di­vi­sion 6 (RID-6), the Iloilo Po­lice Pro­vin­cial Of­fice (IPPO), and the Ne­gros Oc­ci­den­tal Po­lice Pro­vin­cial Of­fice (NOPPO) col­lared Balume Sr., by virtue of an ar­rest war­rant for two counts of mur­der (un­der Crim­i­nal Case Num­bers 20178232 and 2017-8233), is­sued by Judge Ro­ge­lio Amador of RTC-6 Branch 66, Baro­tac Viejo, Iloilo.

The same ar­rest war­rant was also served against Ar­turo Jr. alias "Tur­ing," and the three others, who were present dur­ing the ar­rest, were also taken by the po­lice.

The dou­ble mur­der case stemmed af­ter Balume Sr. and his group were ac­cused in the killing of Ron­aldo Es­tan­darte and Robert Ma­garso on May 8, last year at Barangay Pa­nian in Balasan, Iloilo.

Es­tan­darte, a res­i­dent of Purok 3, Barangay Tacbuyan, Es­tan­cia, Iloilo, and Ma­garso, a res­i­dent of Barangay Arac, Passi City, were known sup­port­ers of Melina Re­quinto, a de­feated may­oralty bet of Es­tan­cia town. On April 25, 2017, an ar­rest war­rant was is­sued against the Balume group.

Se­nior Su­per­in­ten­dent Mar­lon Tayaba, Iloilo Po­lice pro­vin­cial di­rec­tor and the one who led the ar­rest op­er­a­tion, said all of the five sus­pects will also be charged with vi­o­la­tions of Repub­lic Act 10591 (Com­pre­hen­sive Firearms and Am­mu­ni­tion Reg­u­la­tion Act) and RA 9165 (Com­pre­hen­sive Dan­ger­ous Drugs Act of 2002), as firearms and shabu were seized dur­ing their ar­rest.

Tayaba said the sus­pects were caught in their pos­ses­sion 10 sa­chets of shabu worth P83,000, a .38-cal­iber re­volver loaded with six am­mu­ni­tion, a .45-cal­iber (Colt) pis­tol with seven am­mu­ni­tion, and a Nokia mo­bile phone.

PRO-6 records showed the Balume Crim­i­nal Gang has 16 core mem­bers but seven were al­ready neu­tral­ized. Balume Sr. was al­legedly used to be a body­guard of for­mer mayor Nep­tali Sal­cedo of Sara, Iloilo, while his group served as a pri­vate armed group, al­legedly for Mayor Rene Cordero of Es­tan­cia, Iloilo.

The po­lice had cat­e­go­rized Balume Sr. as a high-value tar­get (HVT) level 3 be­cause of his as­so­ci­a­tion with Odicta. He was re­port­edly sourc­ing his drugs sup­ply from the Na­tional Bili­bid Prison and Min­danao. Two years ago, the younger Balume was ar­rested in Es­tan­cia town for il­le­gal pos­ses­sion of firearm, but was later freed af­ter post­ing bail.

Be­fore they were col­lared, po­lice have been op­er­at­ing against the group for over a year al­ready.

Tayaba said they looked for Balume in his re­ported prop­er­ties: a beach re­sort in San Dion­i­sio, Iloilo; game­fowl farms in Sara, Iloilo, and in Nabas, Ak­lan; a farm in San Rafael, Iloilo; and a quarry busi­ness in Hini­garan, Ne­gros Oc­ci­den­tal.

Balume was also mon­i­tored to be fre­quent­ing sev­eral ar­eas in Hi­ma­may­lan City, Ba­colod City, Si­palay City, and the towns of Hi­nobaan, and Hini­garan, all in Ne­gros Oc­ci­den­tal.

Balume Sr. de­nied the ac­cu­sa­tions im­puted against him, and of lead­ing the am­bus­cade against Re­quinto's sup­port­ers. He also de­nied that the drugs and firearms seized al­legedly from their pos­ses­sion, and then fur­ther claimed no knowl­edge about his al­leged as­so­ci­a­tion with Odicta.

Balume only ad­mit­ted to one al­le­ga­tion: He used to be on the pay­roll of the Es­tan­cia mu­nic­i­pal gov­ern­ment, and it was about five years ago when he only re­ceived a P240 daily wage for work­ing at the town's fish­ing port.

PHOTO BY JEN­NIFER P. REN­DON

A com­pos­ite team of po­lice­men ar­rested in Hi­nobaan, Ne­gros Oc­ci­den­tal the 62-year-old Ar­turo Balume Sr. (2nd from left), al­leged leader of the Balume Crim­i­nal Gang, and (L-R) his wife Honey Grace, Ryan Cainglit, Ar­turo Jr. and wife Pamela, who is the sis­ter of Ryan.

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