The Senate will soon conduct a public hearing on the controversial importation and sale of 1,004 AK-47 rifles to the New People’s Army (NPA), the armed component of the Philippine communist movement, with the end in view of reviewing and strengthening Philippine laws and policies on the issuance and granting of firearm licenses and permits.
This followed the filing last Monday, August 3 of Senate Resolution 811 by Senator Ronald ‘’Bato’’ dela Rosa, chairman of the Senate public order and dangerous drugs committee. Dela Rosa is a former Philippine National Police (PNP) chief.
What irked President Duterte during his last and final State of the Nation Address (SONA) last July 26 was the alleged aid of some PNP officials in the sale of the rifles.
Dela Rosa stressed that it is of fundamental importance to address any policy gaps that affects the unrelenting efforts of Philippine law enforcement personnel to end the illegal activities of the communist-terrorist NPA and the preservation of peace and order in the country.
The resolution stated that on July 17, 2014, the PNP Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) reported that from 2011 to 2013, despite irregularities in application, Isidro Lozada, owner of Caraga Security Agency, was able to import and register 1,004 AK-47 rifles with the PNP-Firearms and Explosives Office;
It was found out that through falsified and incomplete license applications, Lozada used Twin Pines, JTC Mineral Mining Corporation, Mineral Mining Corporation, and some security agencies to secure the purchase and registration of the firearms.
Dela Rosa said 44 AK-47 rifles out of the 1,004 firearms licensed under the name of Lozada where recovered by the 401st Infantry Brigade of the Philippine Army (PA) after several dashes with the NPA rebels in CARAGA and Western Mindanao region.
He said the Office of the Ombudsman, after initiating a case build-up moto proprio, charged the following with nineteen (19) counts of falsification, twenty-three (23) counts of violation of Section 3(e) of Republic Act (R.A.) No. 3019 (Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act), twenty-three (23) counts of violation of Section 3Q) of R.A. 3019, and violation of R.A. 5487 (Private Security Agency Law): Director Gil Meneses (PNP Civil Security Group director). Director Napoleon Estilies (Director for Plans and former head of the Firearms and Explosives Office (FEO), Chief Superintendent Raul Petrasanta (PNP Police Regional Office 3 chief and former FEO head. Chief Superintendent Tom Rentoy (former PNP Supetvisory Office for Security and Investigation Agencies chief. Chief Superintendent Regino Catiis (acting executive officer of the PNP Directorate for Comptrollership and formerly chief of the FEO
licensing division. Senior Superintendent Eduardo Acierto Jr. (former chief of the FEO licensing division. Senior Superintendent Allan Parreno, Superintendent Nelson Bautista, Chief Inspector Ricky Sumalde, Chief Inspector Ricardo Zapata Jr., Chief Inspector Rodrigo Benedicto Sarmiento, SPOl Eric Tan, SPOl Randy de Sesto, Nora Pirote, Sol Bargan, Isidro Lazada, representatives of Twin Pines.1
WHEREAS, on April 18, 2015, the Office of the Ombudsman ordered the filing of Information with the Sandiganbayan for multiple counts of violations of Section 3(e) of Republic Act No. 3019 against the named accused, but dismissed the charges against the following: P/CInsp. Rodrigo Benedicto Sarmiento, NUP Enrique Dela Cruz, and Twin Pines representatives, namely: Servando Topacio, Marie Ann Topacio, Alexandria Topacio, Hagen Alexander Topacio, Thelma Castillejos, Sherry Lyn Fetalino and Lourdes Logronio, for lack of probable cause.
On January 9, 2018, upon the directive of President Rodrigo Duterte, Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II issued Department Order No. 007 directing the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to investigate anew for the reason that allegedly not all responsible in the controversy was included in the case.
On May 22,2018, the Ombudsman ordered the dismissal in service of Chief Supt. Regino Catiis of the PNP Directorate for Human Resource and Doctrine Development; Supt. Nelson Bautista of the Personnel Holding and Accounting Unit; Supt. Ricky Sumalde of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group; Chief Insp. Ricardo Zapata Jr. of Police Regional Office 3 (Central Luzon); and Senior Supt. Eduardo Acierto. While, Chief Supt. Petrasanta, Chief Supt. Parreno, SPOl Tan, and Pirote, who were already not in service was fined an amount equivalent to one year salary. The penalty includes forfeiture of retirement benefits, cancellation of eligibility and perpetual disqualification from holding office.
In his July 26 SONA, President Duterte requested Congress to conduct an investigation on the sale of AK-47 rifles to the NPA.
The Senate resolution stated that the sale of these rifles to the NPA rebels with the aid of unscrupulous law enforcement agents and government employees is ‘’alarming.’’
‘’Whereas, despite pendency of graft and corrupt criminal cases against alleged perpetrators, there is a need to determine the means and method exploited that enabled private individuals and corporations to sell firearms to communist- terrorist group,’’ the resolution added.