PNP backpedals on missing assault rifles

By Cecille Suerte Felipe, The Philippine Star

Posted at Jun 10 2014 05:10 AM | Updated as of Jun 10 2014 01:10 PM

MANILA - The Philippine National Police (PNP) backpedaled on its pronouncement that at least 19 police officers are likely to be held accountable for more than 1,000 missing rifles, for which President Aquino ordered an investigation last January.

Chief Superintendent Reuben Theodore Sindac, PNP public information office director, admitted yesterday that the announcement was prematurely made last Friday since the witness has yet to sign his statement.

“The investigation is still ongoing and has yet to be concluded. There was no concrete evidence yet against the personalities involved,” Sindac said in a press briefing.

Last Friday, Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) chief Director Benjamin Magalong announced that the missing firearms were traced to communist New People’s Army rebels in Mindanao and the 19 police officers could be charged with the unlawful sale of firearms and ammunition.

Sindac said Isidro Lozada has yet to sign any affidavit to support his statement that the NPA gave him money to buy high-powered firearms.

Lozada owns a security agency, through which he facilitated the importation and registration of the firearms he later delivered to the rebels. He claimed the rebels threatened to kill him and his family if he did not make the purchase.

The 1,004 firearms – each priced at P52,000 – cost at least P52 million.

No government funds used

Sindac also clarified that there were no government funds involved in the case. “These are not government firearms, the PNP was not the one that sold the guns. The buyer coordinated and facilitated the procurement of the firearms,” he said.

Of the 19 police officers reportedly involved in the case, Magalong named only five: Chief Superintendent Regino Catiis, currently executive officer of the Directorate for Comptrollership; Chief Superintendent Raul Petrasanta, the incumbent regional director of Central Luzon; Directors Gil Meneses and Napoleon Estilles who are both on non-duty status in preparation for their mandatory retirement; and retired Chief Superintendent Tomas Rentoy III.

Meneses headed the Civil Security Group, while Estilles and Petrasanta were former chiefs of the Firearms and Explosives Office. Catiis headed the FEO’s Firearms Licensing Division while Rentoy headed the Supervisory Office for Security and Investigative Agencies.

Petrasanta is reported to be the possible successor to PNP chief Director General Alan Purisima, who is set to retire in 2015.

The police officials denied any knowledge of the alleged irregularities.