MANILA, Philippines - The military clarified it has no Israeli firearms in its inventory as it vowed to look into claims that an officer connived with California Senator Leland Yee to smuggle guns from the Philippines.
Previous reports said Yee, who belongs to the Democratic Party, had access to Israeli assault rifles through a Filipino military captain.
Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) public affairs chief Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala told The STAR yesterday the AFP does not have Israeli weapons in their inventory.
He said almost all of their firearms were from the US.
“Some of them were manufactured in the Philippines but were licensed by the US,” he said.
Earlier, defense department spokesman Peter Galvez said they need more information about the supposed gun smuggling conspiracy, as the military has no Israeli-made firearms.
“If they can send us the information, we can look into it,” Galvez said.
He said the government does not condone illegal acts such as gun smuggling.
Zagala said they are monitoring the developments in the case against Yee, who ironically is a gun control advocate.
“The investigation is ongoing. We will wait for the results of the investigation of the FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation),” he said.
Zagala said they are ready to look into the supposed involvement of a military captain in the case. The military, however, has yet to receive a formal complaint against the officer who was supposedly in cahoots with Yee.
Zagala admitted that it is possible that some guns in their inventory would go missing due to negligence.
The military, he said, has an established system of accounting for its firearms.
A supply officer is preparing reports to determine if all firearms are accounted for. An investigation will be conducted if inspectors discover some discrepancies in the inventory.
Zagala said they are ready to support the FBI in its probe if they are asked to do so.
In Cagayan de Oro, the regional Bureau of Customs is set to conduct a fact-finding probe into the reported arms smuggling in this city involving a US lawmaker.
Regional customs chief Roswald Joseph Pague said they expect this week the personnel from the national office to arrive and conduct a joint parallel inquiry.
Pague said district collector Ruby Claudia Alameda has ordered the fact-finding mission to determine the veracity of the report from the US of the alleged arms shipment from the port of Cagayan de Oro.
Pague said he finds it hard to believe that the shipment came from Cagayan de Oro because exports are no longer shipped from this port but at the Mindanao Container Terminal in Tagoloan, Misamis Oriental.
“We are always on heightened alert, smuggling can’t occur,” Pague said.
He added that shipments are inspected by Customs personnel and pass through X-ray machines at the port before loading on a ship. – With Gerry Lee Gorit