Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II on Tuesday launched a criminal investigation in connection with the missing high-powered firearms of the Philippine National Police (PNP) that ended up in the hands of communist insurgents in Mindanao.
Acting on the directive of President Rodrigo Duterte, Aguirre issued Department Order 7 tasking the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to conduct a probe and file appropriate cases against government personnel and private individuals found liable.
"With this, we are confident that those individuals who are responsible for this felonious act will be held accountable," Aguirre said in a statement.
Aguirre made the order even if there is already a pending graft case at the Sandiganbayan Fifth Division against several incumbent and former high-ranking police officials and a private individual in connection with the missing firearms.
In June 2014, the PNP Criminal Investigation and Detection (CIDG) disclosed that 1,004 firearms worth P52 million were sold to the New People's Army, the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines, from August 2011 to April 2013.
The PNP also identified Isidro Lozada, owner of a security agency in Caraga region, as the one who facilitated the registration of the firearms with the PNP and delivered the firearms to the NPA.
Of the 44 AK-47 rifles that the military turned over to the PNP, five were confirmed as being among the 1,004 missing firearms.
The Office of the Ombudsman then conducted an investigation that led to the filing of graft cases against 15 individuals including several former and active police officials before the Sandiganbayan in 2015.
Among those charged were Raul Petrasanta, former head of the PNP Firearms and Explosives Office; retired PNP Directors Gil Meneses and Napoleon Estilles; former Chief Superintendents Tomas Rentoy III and Regino Catiis; and former Senior Superintendents Eduardo Acierto and Allan Parreño and Lozada.
Ombudsman investigators said those who were indicted were found to have conspired in facilitating, processing and approving the applications for firearm licenses of Caraga, Isla Security Agency, Claver Mineral Development Corporation and JTC Mineral Mining Corporation despite incomplete or falsified applications and supporting documents.
Most of the firearms were also released immediately even when some of the requests for their withdrawal from storage were not signed by the requester, according to the Ombudsman. —KBK, GMA News