Animal welfare NGO gets rebels’ pets

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Friday, March 28, 2014


THE Central Command yesterday turned over the pets of captured CPP-NPA officials to an animal welfare group.

This, as the Department of Justice (DOJ) indicted Benito Tiamzon, Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army (CPP-NPA) chairman, and wife Wilma Austria, CPP-NPA secretary general, for allegedly carrying firearms and explosives. The five companions of the couple were also charged with the same offense.

Assistant State Prosecutor Niven Canlapan found enough evidence to charge the high-ranking CPP-NPA officials, Nona Castillo, Joel Enano, Arlene Panea, Rex Villaflor and Jeosi Nepa with violation of Republic Act (RA) 9516 amending Section 3 of Presidential Decree (PD) 1866 and RA 10591, also known as Comprehensive Firearms and Ammunition Regulation Act.

Enano, Panea, Villaflor, Castillo and Nepa were also charged with obstruction of justice for allegedly harboring fugitives.

The two dogs and a cat of Tiamzon and Austria are now with the Island Rescue Organization (IRO), a Cebu-based non-profit animal rescue organization.

Captured

“They're the most capable group to handle them,” Lt. Jim Alagao, spokesperson of Centcom, told reporters.

The animals were found by the police and the military inside a 2008 grey Hyundai Starex Van (MDN-171) together with Tiamzon and Austria, who were caught at a checkpoint in Barangay Zaragosa, Aloguinsan.

Retired lawyer Nena Hernandez, founder and executive director of IRO, said they will take care of the pets and wait for instructions from the couple.

During the press conference, Hernandez said she talked with the lawyer of Tiamzon and Austria yesterday. “Wilma loves the animals. If I were in her shoes, I'd go crazy (thinking about them while I’m away),” she said.

She said she asked the lawyer for the animals’ vaccination records.
Healthy

The pets, she said, are healthy and well taken care of. If they were traumatized or abused, the animals would have undergone rehabilitation.

Hernandez said she went to the San Fernando house occupied by the CPP-NPA officials to check on the other animals. She said that if pet owners will allow it, she will take the animals to the IRO rescue center.

She said the animals will be fed with whatever IRO can afford.

IRO, she said, has more than 100 dogs and cats at its center and relies on private donors for funding.

She said IRO does not have authority to put the animals up for adoption.

Warrants

Tiamzon and Austria are the subjects of arrest warrants for multiple murder, issued by a court in Samar.

The Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) said they found a .45 Colt pistol, 9mm. pistol and two grenades inside the Starex Van used by Tiamzon and Austria. The police said they also found a 9mm. pistol and a .357 revolver inside the Toyota Innova that was used by the couple’s companions.

“Credence can be given weight to the statements of the arresting officers who personally witnessed the search as well as possession of the respondents of said illegal firearms, ammunitions and explosives,” said Canlapan in the resolution.

The PNP Firearms and Explosive Office issued a memorandum that the respondents are not licensed gun owners.

During the inquest proceeding, the respondents questioned the jurisdiction of Department of Justice main office in handling the case since they were arrested in Aloguinsan, Cebu.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on March 29, 2014.

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