1,000 AK-47 rifles lost to NPAs; 19 police officers in hot water
Manila, Philippines — More than 1,000 AK-47 assault rifles from a security agency has ended up in the hands of the New People’s Army (NPA) in Mindanao, and 19 policemen would likely be held accountable for that.
The ironic twist to the government’s war against the rebels is now being investigated, and among those who would likely be charged are senior officers whose desks accommodated the documentation of the firearms.
Director Benjamin Magalong, head of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG), said the police officials who may likely be charged with administrative and criminal charges include five retired and active generals.
“All the papers related to the licensing of those firearms went through their offices. It is incumbent upon them to examine the papers,” said Magalong.
He identified the senior officers as Chief Supt. Regino Catiis, currently executive officer of the Directorate for Comptrollership, and Chief Supt. Raul Petrasanta, the incumbent regional director of Central Luzon.
Petrasanta, a member of Philippine Military Academy (PMA) Class 1984, is a top contender for the top police post when Director General Alan Purisima in November next year.
The three other officers implicated are Police Directors Gil Meneses and Napoleon Estilles who are both under Non-Duty Status (NDS) in preparation for their mandatory retirement age of 56, and retired Chief Supt. Tomas Rentoy III.
Rentoy was also implicated in the controversial Euro-General case.
“They failed to exercise due diligence. If they just did their job well, those firearms would have not ended on the hands of the insurgents,” he added.
By failure to exercise due diligence, Magalong said all the 19 police officials involved apparently failed to perform their duty well because all the 1,004 AK-47’s were licensed at the Firearms and Explosives Office of the PNP.
Petrasanta and Estilles were the FEO chief during the timeframe that the assault rifles were registered while Meneses was the boss of the two being the Civil Security Group head. FEO is under the CSG.
Rentoy, on the other hand, was the head of the Supervisory Office for Security and Investigative Agency (SOSIA) which was supposed to check the security agency which facilitated the registration and delivery of the AK-47 to the NPA.
The rest of the officials being implicated are connected to the CSG, FEO and SOSIA.
Asked if they monitored a case of corruption on the part of the police officials implicated, Magalong said: “We have no evidence that they earned money out of it.”
HOW IT HAPPENED
The “main player” of the operation was a certain Isidro Lozada, owner of the security agency based in CARAGA region, according to Magalong, quoting the result of their investigation.
“It was him who had those firearms registered and delivered to the NPA,” said Magalong.
He narrated that Lozada actually purchased all the 1,004 AK-47 from Twin Pines, a gun
supply firm, using his security agency. He said there is also proof that Lozada used the names of other security agencies.
After the licensing of the AK-47’s, Lozada delivered them to Butuan City where they were be picked up by the communist rebels.
The delivery period of the guns was from 2011 to early part of 2013. The guns were delivered in groups of 20s or 30s, Magalong revealed.
When confronted, Lozada allegedly admitted to facilitating the registration and delivery of the guns but was quick to clarify that he was forced to do so by the NPA.
He told us that he was approached sometime in 2010 and that the NPA threatened to kill him and his family if he would not cooperate, said Magalong.
According to Lozada, the rebels gave him money for the purchase and all the licensing expenses of the AK-47’s.
The AK-47’s are firearms that are intended for sale for juridical entities, like security agencies. By rule, those guns must not be sold unless they are registered first at the FEO.
In the licensing and delivery of guns, Lozada claimed he needed those firearms for his security guards manning mining firms in the eastern part of Mindanao.
Lozada bought the guns at P52,000 per piece.
In December last year, President Aquino alerted the PNP on the missing AK-47’s. The CIDG was tasked to probe the incident last February.
The CIDG’s investigation led them to the information that all the AK-47’s ended up in the hands of the NPA following the coordination with the military.
“We immediately asked them to turnover to us all the AK-47’s that were captured in the encounters. The military responded by turning over to us 44 AK-47’s,” said Magalong.
The 44 guns were seized in a series of encounters with the NPAs in CARAGA region and other parts of western Mindanao.
“As a result, five of those firearms were actually traced to the missing AK-47’s. The rest have severely defaced serial numbers,” said Magalong.
Sought for explanation by the CIDG, Magalong said all the police officials implicated claimed that the licensing went through a normal process.
“They said Twin Pines is actually a very well established firearms dealer that they trust,” said Magalong, quoting the explanation made by some of the implicated police officials.
In the same manner, Twin Pines said that Lozada has a good record and they trusted that he will not do something irregular. Only to find out that he delivered the guns to NPA and even used the names of other juridical entities without their knowledge aside from his own security agency,” he added.
Aside from the five officials mentioned, Magalong said they will also file charges against 10 other private individuals, including Lozada. He said that they will also look at the liability of Twin Pines.
The charges could be related to a section in the law related to the illegal possession of firearms and other possible graft charges, he said. This is aside from the administrative cases that would be slapped against the police personnel.