MANILA - Members of the House committee on public order and safety criticized the head of the Philippine National Police - Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (PNP-CIDG) for prematurely naming police officers allegedly involved in the missing 1,004 AK-47 assault rifles.
During the second hearing of the House committee on Wednesday, Cebu 3rd District Rep. Gwendolyn Garcia said CIDG Director Chief Supt. Benjamin Magalong's premature identification of the PNP officers seemed a "deliberate attempt" to preempt the ongoing House inquiry.
"There seems to be a deliberate attempt either to lead this committee towards the conclusions which Director Magalong's own investigation wishes to impose upon us or to hide other facets of an incomplete truth," she said.
"I find the situation rather mysterious if not suspicious. I find it even unacceptable that this committee that is trying its best to get to the bottom of things to find the truth in a manner that is most objective, apolitical and totally without agenda should be preempted by an investigation which up to now I cannot fathom whether it is ongoing, terminated or suddenly, inexplicably concluded," she added.
Last week, Magalong said they will file charges against 19 personnel of the PNP, which included 5 high-ranking officials, and around 10 civilians who they believe played a role in the irregular purchase and licensing of the AK-47s.
Magalong said all 1,004 AK-47s landed in the hands of the New People's Army (NPA) in a sale brokered by a certain Isidro Lozada.
Garcia said news about the missing rifles came out right after Magalong assured the House that the CIDG probe has yet to be concluded.
"We have not pointed fingers yet because we were assured that the CIDG investigation is still ongoing. And yet, to my surprise, less than 24 hours later after our hearing, it came out in the tri-media -- newspapers, radio and TV-- that there will be five generals who will be charged as regards to the disappearance of 1,004 AK 47s. Where does that lead this committee and this hearing? It ties our hands," she said.
Negros Occidental 4th District Rep. Jeffery Ferrer also said he was "surprised" by Magalong's statements.
Committee vice chairman Rep. Samuel Pagdilao said Magalong should exercise prudence on handling and discussing the CIDG investigation.
"Prudence tells it is better to face the media if the case has already been filed and accepted at the Ombudsman or fiscal's office. Then therefore, you have an assurance the case you filed has a basis, it has a probable cause because it was accepted," he said.
"Not only that you are being unfair to certain people but you also stand the risk of being embarrassed once you filed a case and it is not accepted by the fiscal or Ombudsman. That means you’re back to square one as far as your investigation is concerned," added Pagdilao, a former CIDG director.
Magalong, for his part, explained that he was invited by the PNP Public Information Office (PIO) to attend last week's press conference in which the media asked him about updates on the CIDG's probe on the missing guns.
He admitted that he committed a mistake when he identified police officers even if the CIDG probe is not yet finished.
"I take full responsibility for that mistake," he said.
Rep. Romeo Acop, who along with Pagdilao and Rep. Leopoldo Bataoil authored House Resolution 772 seeking an inquiry into the missing firearms issue, suggested that the panel invite PNP PIO Chief Supt. Theodore Sindac to its next hearing to answer further queries on the premature statement of Magalong about cases to be filed in relation to the firearms issue.