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DOJ warns civilians vs wearing military, police uniforms

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MANILA, Philippines - Civilians who will be caught wearing military fatigue, camouflage uniforms and other similar outfits should get the full brunt of the law, Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez said Wednesday. In a department circular, Gonzalez directed prosecutors to ensure speedy trial against civilians found garbed like military or police personnel. "This poses serious peril to the military and police personnel conducting operations in the area as they get confused on the identity of the enemy," he said. Aside from military uniforms, Gonzalez also warned the public against the open display of insignia and badges of military or police, saying this is against the law. In his circular, Gonzalez noted that most criminal elements, including rebels in Mindanao identified with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), wear military or police camouflage/fatigue uniforms. He also said that in some bank robbery and kidnapping cases, the perpetrators were described as wearing military or police service uniforms. Gonzalez said these uniforms, insignia and badges, which could pass for genuine service clothing, find their way to these criminal elements through unscrupulous merchants or individuals selling these items. Citing Republic Act 493 that was passed in 1950, the DOJ chief pointed out the criminal nature of unauthorized manufacture, distribution, sale and use of military/police uniforms, insignia and badges against people who are not in the service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. Under the 1950 law, a person convicted of violation of these laws shall be fined not less than P100 and not exceeding P2,000 or by imprisonment for not less than one month and not exceeding two years, or both. The same is also punishable under Article 179 of the Revised Penal Code, which penalizes "any person who shall publicly and improperly makes use of insignia, uniforms or dress pertaining to an office not held by that person or to a class of persons of which he is not a member." Gonzalez also said Executive Order 297 series of 2000, was issued to regulate the manufacturer, distributor, supplier and seller of police uniforms, insignia, badges and other accoutrement, and shall be dealt with administratively by the Philippine National Police. Any violation of this EO shall result in the immediate closure of the establishment, plant or office where uniforms and other items are being manufactured, stored or distributed; the cancellation of its business license and permits; the condemnation, seizure and forfeiture of all paraphernalia used or intended to be used in the manufacture, on top of fines without prejudice to the filing of criminal and civil cases. The DOJ has also alerted the local government units through the Department of Interior and Local Governments to mobilize themselves and mount initiatives in line with the department's circular. "Their participation is critical in checking illegal manufacture and sale of military/police uniforms or their colorable resemblance as these LGUs can readily monitor, close and penalize shops in their localities which carry on such illicit trade," Gonzalez said. - GMANews.TV
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