The Sandiganbayan Fifth Division on Friday ordered the arrest of former Philippine National Police Firearms and Explosives Office (FEO) head Chief Supt. Raul Petrasanta and several other incumbent and former high-ranking police officials in connection with the AK-47 riffle scam.
In an interview with reporters, Fifth Division clerk of court Atty. Teresa Pabulayan confirmed that the court has already issued warrants of arrest against Petrasanta and 13 other of his co-accused in the multiple counts of graft in connection with the riffle anomaly.
Pabulayan, however, clarified that three of the accused has already posted bail thus, the arrest warrants against them “are now considered void.”
The accused who have posted bail were retired Civil Security Group director Police Dir. Gil Meneses, former FEO head Police Dir. Napoleon Estilles and Firearms and Licensing Division chief Chief Supt. Regino Catiis.
“As for the other accused who have not posted bail, the arrest warrant against them stands,” Pabulayan said.
Pabulayan refused to furnish the media with copies of the arrest warrants, saying that the court was still in the process of transmitting the order to PNP and the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI).
Aside from Petrasanta, also ordered arrested were PNP Supervisory Office for Security and Investigation Agencies chief Chief Supt. Tomas Rentoy III, Senior Supt. Eduardo Acierto, Senior Supt. Allan Parreño, Police Supt. Nelson Bautista, Police Chief Inspector Ricardo Zapata Jr., Senior Police Officers 1 (SPO1) Eric Tan and Randy De Sesto and Non-uniformed Personnel (NUP) Nora Pirote and Sol Bargan.
Also ordered arrested was private individual Isidro Lozada of the Caraga Security Agency.
Meanwhile, the Fifth Division deferred the issuance of warrant of arrest against another accused in the case, Police Chief Inspector Ricky Sumalde as he still has a pending motion for reconsideration before the Ombudsman.
The graft charges against Petrasanta and 14 other individuals stemmed from the alleged anomalous issuance of licenses, from August 2011 to April 2013, for over a hundred units of high-powered AK-47 riffles in favor of four private companies despite incomplete or falsified applications and supporting documents.
The arrest warrants were issued following the court’s ruling junking Petrasanta and the other accused’s motion to dismiss the case.
In an eight-page ruling released to the media earlier in the day, the Fifth Division said a review of the documents at hand submitted by the Office of the Ombudsman, showed that there exists a probable cause to proceed with a full-blown trial.
The court, meanwhile, clarified that the finding of probable cause is not tantamount to the finding of guilt, stressing that all the accused are still presumed innocent until the prosecution is able to prove otherwise.
“The Court is mindful that despite finding of probable cause against the accused-movants, the presumption of innocence in their favor remains. The burden is still upon the prosecution to prove their guilt beyond reasonable doubt,” the court’s resolution said.
“Nevertheless, sufficient evidence exists on record to bring these cases to trial and thus give the prosecution the chance to prove the guilt of the accused-movants beyond reasonable doubts for the crime charged against them,” it added.
Petrasanta became a top contender for the PNP chief post as replacement of dismissed former PNP chief Dir. Alan Purisima.
However, in July last year, Pres. Benigno Aquino III appointed former PNP Directorate for Operations head Dir. Ricardo Marquez as Purisima’s replacement. — RSJ, GMA News