PNP: Investigation on missing firearms ‘premature’

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Tuesday, June 10, 2014


THE issue linking five Philippine National Police (PNP) officials to the missing 1,004 pieces of high-powered firearms, which allegedly ended up in the hands of the communist rebels in Mindanao can be considered hearsay, a police official said Tuesday.

PNP Public Information Office (PIO) head Chief Superintendent Reuben Theodore Sindac said the investigation on the missing AK-47, the assault rifle considered as the most powerful in the world, is still ongoing and the PNP Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) has yet to gather enough evidence against the concerned police officials.

"Napaaga lang 'yung pagsasapubliko ng information about this case ng CIDG, it can actually be considered as pre-mature kasi iniimbestigahan palang 'yung kaso," he said.

Sindac said the CIDG is investigating if the 1,004 missing firearms were solely sold to the communist group or if a "war lord" or a private armed group benefited from the anomalies.

In 2013, President Benigno Aquino III ordered the PNP to conduct an investigation after a report reached his office that the owners of some 1,004 licensed AK47 assault rifles are unidentifiable.

On June 5, CIDG chief Director Benjamin Magalong said 19 active members of the PNP and 10 private individuals run the risk of being charged over the missing firearms.

Magalong tagged Chief Superintendents Raul Petrasanta, the PNP director in Central Luzon and who is being groomed to be the next PNP chief; Regino Catiis, an active official of the national police agency; Directors Napoleon Estilles and Gil Meneses, who are both retiring from the government service; and retired Chief Superintendent Thomas Rentoy as among those who are allegedly implicated in the case.

The CIDG chief said that according to Isidro Lozada, a private businessman, he facilitated the selling of some missing AK47 to the NPA mostly in the Caraga region and Western Mindanao.

Lozada said he bought the licensed firearms using NPA's money from Twin Pines, a registered guns and gun parts importer.

However, Sindac said Lozada have not yet submitted his sworn affidavit, which can be used to press charges against the ranking PNP officials.

"Hindi pa niya (Lozada) napipirmahan 'yung statement niya kaya we can still consider the accusations as chismis or hearsay pa lang," PNP PIO chief said.

Meanwhile, the Philippine Army (PA) said they usually recover AK-47 every after encounter with the NPA.

In their recent encounter with the rebel group in Barangay Cambuayon, Bacuag, Surigao Del Norte, government troops recovered four AK-47, which the army said belongs to the bandit group.

Members of the 30th Infantry Battalion of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) also said that during a gunfight against the rebel group last week in the town of Mainit in Surigao Del Norte, wherein three members of the NPA were killed, they recovered one AK47.

Magalong earlier said they also asked the help of the PNP regional offices as well as the AFP during their investigation to turnover to them AK-47 assault rifles recovered from the encounters.

Five of the 44 turned-over high-powered firearms were positively identified as part of the 1,004 missing assaults, the CIDG director said.

Magalong said the other AK47 which was handed to them by the AFP has defaced and tampered serial numbers, which makes it hard for the investigators to identify.

In a telephone interview, Captain Alberto Caber, spokesperson of the Eastern Mindanao Command (EastMinCom) AFP said they have noticed since July 2013 that most of the firearms used by the NPA in encounters were AK-47.

"Mismong si (Eastern Mindanao Command) commanding general Lieutenant General Rainier Cruz ang nakapansin sa pagdami ng mga AK-47 rifle na narerecover sa mga engkwentro kung kaya pinaimbestigahan na rin niya kung saan nanggaling ang mga ito," he said.

Caber also said that a soldier who was abducted by the NPA last year told him that most of the rebel group members guarding him were armed with AK-47.

According to the EastMinCom, they turned over 45 AK47 assault rifles, 14 of which were surrendered by the group while the 31 others were recovered from encounters.

"Nababahala ang EastMinCom na posibleng naunahan pa kami ng NPA na mag upgrade ng armas sa dami ng AK-47 na nasa kustodiya nila ngayon," Caber said.

Sindac said such incident could have been avoided "if the Comprehensive Firearms Law was approved."

"It is also a pressing reason kung bakit natin dapat ipatupad ang Comprehensive Firearms Law," he said.

"Eto na nga ang ginagamot ng bagong batas ng Comprehensive Firearms Law na sana naman pagbigyan ng pagkakataon na mag-operationalize itong firearms law para makita naman natin ‘yung pagtuwid ng kamalian na nagbunga ng malaking kaso na ito," Sindac added.

The PNP earlier modified the firearms law including the centralization of firearms registration, licensing office in Camp Crame in Quezon City, and closing its firearms satellite offices.

The PNP also launched the "Oplan Katok" where authorized members of the PNP Firearms and Explosives Office will have to inspect on the gun owners houses even without search warrants to validate their identity.

However, the Supreme Court has deferred the implementation of the new Comprehensive Firearms Law as members of the Pro-gun petitioners questioned some of its provisions.

The Comprehensive Firearms Law is still currently under a temporary restraining order.

"We wish for the full implementation of this Comprehensive Firearms Law for the benefit of all at para hindi na maulit ‘yung ganitong insidente," Sindac said.

Sindac said there would be a gun amnesty starting on July and the PNP were encouraging the owners of the unregistered firearms to secure gun licenses until February of next year. (Sunnex)

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