Manila: Authorities have formally filed charges against five top Philippine police officials in connection with the improper purchase of firearms that turned up in the hands of communist rebels.

Police directors Gil Meneses of the Civil Security Group, Napoleon Estilles of the Firearms and Explosives Office (FEO) and Chief Superintendents Raul Petrasanta, Tomas Rentoy III and Regino Catiis were cited in court papers filed by ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales on Wednesday.

An investigation conducted by the Ombudsman, the government anti-graft prosecutor, revealed a web of organised corruption in the issuance of licences to private entities for the purchase of weapons used for defence purposes.

The involvement of the five top police officials underscored the corruption in the Philippine National Police as well the will of the government to prosecute erring men in uniform.

Apart from the five senior police officials, seven other people, including two officers and three other non-uniformed personnel were also indicted.

“Respondents were found to have conspired in facilitating, processing and approving the applications for firearm licences of Caraga, Isla Security Agency (Isla), Claver Mineral Development Corporation and JTC Mineral Mining Corporation despite incomplete or falsified applications and supporting documents,” Carpio-Morales said.

The scheme was brought to the knowledge of authorities after the military seized several AK 47s from fallen New Peoples’ Army (NPA) in Mindanao.

When investigators traced the origins of the firearms, it was found out that the weapons were originally issued to mining firms.

The mining firms had been allowed by the PNP Civil Security Group and the Firearms and Explosive Units to buy automatic weapons.

Under Philippine law, only the military, police and security agencies accredited by the PNP can purchase automatic weapons in large quantities.

Mining firms had been allowed to purchase automatic weapons on the assumption that they would be used to secure their business.

But as it turned out, corruption had led to the weapons that the PNP allowed mining firms to purchase, being used by the rebels against government personnel, particularly the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the PNP itself.

Investigators discovered, among other irregularities, that Caraga was issued firearms on the basis of an expired licence.

The processing of Caraga’s applications without verifying the number of firearms already issued to it, resulted in the issuance of licences beyond the limit allowed by regulations.

Authorities allege Meneses even wrote notes by hand to the relevant officials to expedite the processing of firearms licences to the firms, among other anomalies.