World Bulletin / News Desk
Philippine police said Thursday that they had thwarted an alleged plot to assassinate President Rodrigo Duterte after a suspected gun parts smuggler told them of a customer’s plan to kill the outspoken head of state.
In a press conference at national police headquarters in Quezon City, police presented a suspect arrested earlier this month, Wilford Palma, as saying that the claim was made by their smuggling syndicate’s "number one customer".
"My boss told me our number one customer had a plan to order lower end gun parts to be used in the assassination of President Duterte," GMA News quoted him as saying.
Even before the June 30 inauguration of Duterte, who had vowed to launch a campaign against illegal drugs under which around 2,000 suspects have since been killed, his pick for national police chief, Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa, said a bounty of P50 million ($1 million) had been raised for himself and Duterte.
On Thursday, Palma said that he and his boss had sold more than 100 upper receivers, 40 barrels and 30 bolt assemblies that could be used in assembling 100 M-16 rifles to the client.
Palma and Bryan Ta-Ala, who is currently in custody in hospital due to suffering from hypertension, were arrested in central Bacolod City with P4.5 million worth of gun parts from the United States.
Police chief dela Rosa refused to reveal the identity of the client due to ongoing investigations, but expressed his belief that the buyer was likely not part of the group that would have been hired to kill Duterte.
“Actually we have not arrested this man [the buyer], but most likely he's not the gun for hire,” he was quoted as saying by the Philippine Daily Inquirer. “Maybe he was just instructed by a syndicate to buy [gun parts] for that purpose.”
Chief Supt. Roel Obusan, head of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group that apprehended Palma and Ta-Ala, said they were validating Palma's claim and would consider him a witness due to his testimony.
The two were arrested Aug. 6 based on information provided by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to the Philippines Bureau of Customs.
They face charges of violating Republic Act. 10591, or the Comprehensive Firearms and Ammunition Regulation Act.