Manila: Nineteen top ranking policemen and 10 private businessmen have been accused of facilitating the sale of 1,000 high-powered firearms stolen from the Philippine National Police (PNP) to communist rebels.
An investigation is also ongoing for the alleged sale of government-issued firearms and ammunition to a separatist Filipino-Muslim rebel group in the southern Philippines, sources told Gulf News.
Chief Supt. Raul Petrasanta, regional director of the Philippine National Police (PNP) in central Luzon was the top-most ranking policeman accused of facilitating the sale of 1,000 high-powered firearms to the New People’s Army, the armed wing of the 45-year old Communist Party of the Philippines in Mindanao, southern Philippines, said Director Benjamin Magalong, head of PNP’s Criminal Investigation and Detective Group (CIDG).
Two police directors, Napoleon Estilles and Gil Meneses, active police Chief Supt. Regino Catiis, retired Chief Supt. Tomas Rentoy, 14 other police officials, and 10 private individuals were also involved in the alleged sale of firearms that were stolen from the government, said Magalong.
The two police directors and the two police superintendents allowed the licensing of the firearms before they were sold to the NPA, said Magalong, adding all of the accused will be charged for graft, corruption and violation of the country’s anti-illegal firearms law.
The policemen were implicated by the activities of businessman Isidro Lozada, owner of Security Agency, which supplies guards to private firms, and sold a total of P52 million (Dh4.33 million) worth of AK-47s to the NPA from 2011 to 2013, said Magalong.
In an investigation, Lozada admitted that he was forced to sell guns to NPA members because they threatened to kill him and his family members, Magalong said.
To comply with the NPA, Lozada used mining companies and other security agencies to apply for permits to import guns from Twin Pines Inc, a licensed gun importer based in Butuan, southern Philippines, said Magalong.
NPA buyers would get in touch with Lozada as soon as he could process the licenses of the guns with PNP’s Firearms and Explosive Office. He sold the assault rifles to NPA buyers for P52,000 each, in tranches of 30 to 50 units per transaction done in markets, bus terminals, sea and airports, from 2011 to 2013, said Magalong.
In December 2013, President Benigno Aquino revealed that a big number of AK-47 firearms went missing from the PNP headquarters.
During an investigation, five of the 44 AK-47 rifles that the Philippine Army recovered during clashes with the NPA on Western Mindanao, bore the same serial numbers of the AK-47 rifles that Lozada had bought from Twin Pines, said Magalong.
The serial numbers of the 39 other recovered AK-47s could not be read, but investigators believed they were also part of the high-powered firearms that Lozada had bought from Twin Pines, said Magalong.
Noting that the accused policemen did not really earn from Lozada’s transactions with the NPA, Magalong said the policemen erred because they did not undertake a stringent procedure in licensing firearms.
It was the first time that policemen were accused of facilitating the sale of license firearms to communist rebels, Magalong added.
But the firearms that were lost at the police headquarters were brought to (and not imported by) Twin Pines (as requested by Lozada), said sources who requested for anonymity.
The top ranking policemen who were accused of facilitating of the sale of the high-powered firearms to the NPA were not the ones who allegedly brought the missing AK-47 from the police headquarters to Twin Pines, the same sources said, adding that more people might be implicated in the scandal.
Earlier, Abu Misry, spokesman of the Bangasmoro Islamic Freedom Fighter (BIFF) claimed that the BIFF has been buying arms and ammunition from the Army based in the southern Philippines.
The BIFF became a faction of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in 2008, because it was against the continuation of the peace talks between the Philippine government and the MILF. The two parties eventually forged a pro-autonomy peace settlement in 2013.
In 2003, when Senator Antonio Trillanes IV waged a failed coup plot against former President Gloria Arroyo by briefly taking over Oakwood Hotel on Ayala Avenue, the financial district, he (was then a lieutenant) and 300 other junior officers and enlisted men claimed that top ranking military men have been selling firearms and ammunition to communist and Filipino-Muslim rebels.
It was a source of wide-scale corruption in the military and the police, complained Trillanes. He was detained starting 2003, was elected senator in 2007, and released from prison in 2010.