The Sandiganbayan’s Fifth Division on Wednesday convicted former Philippine Marines commandant Brig. Gen. Percival Subala, former Philippine Marines assistant chief of staff Col. Cesar dela Peña and four private individuals for illegal disposition of firearms in 2000.
The Marine officials and the private individuals–Edelbert Uybuco, Gerardo Vijandre, Manuel Ferdinand Trinidad and Michael Boregas–were all found guilty beyond reasonable doubt of illegal disposition of firearms as defined under Section 1 of Presidential Decree 1866.
In a 69-page resolution penned by the Fifth Division Chairman, Associate Justice Roland Jurado, and concurred in by Associate Justices Elexander Gesmundo and Ma. Theresa Dolores Gomez-Estoesta, the six were sentenced to a minimum of four years and two months to a maximum of six years and eight months of imprisonment with a fine of P30,000 each.
Co-accused former Navy Capt. Teodoro Briones was acquitted on ground of reasonable doubt and a hold departure order issued against him by the court dated June 24, 2008 was set aside.
The court also ordered issuance of arrest warrant against Senior Police Officer 4 Richard Zules, who is at-large.
“The elaborate and illegal scheme participated in by accused dela Peña, Subala, Trinidad, Boregas Uybuco and Vijandre would probably have gone unnoticed if not for the operation conducted by the CIDG [Criminal Investigation and Detection Group] which resulted in the chance recovery of five of the 72 firearms which were about to be loaded into pump boats in Zambales,” the resolution read.
In June 2000, the accused conspired to illegally disposed of 72 cal. 9mm submachine guns “by making it appear that the Philippine Marines Corps. purchased the said firearms from Trimark Ventures Trading Corporation” according to the case filed by the Office of the Ombudsman in 2007.
According to the Ombudsman, the high-powered guns which were supposed to be delivered to the Philippine Marine Corps. Headquarters at Fort Bonifacio in Makati City (Metro Manila), never reached their destination and instead delivered to the office of Trimark at Windsor Towers Condominium, Legaspi Village in Makati.
The Ombudsman said the supposed purchased firearms stored at the Philippine National Police Firearms and Explosives Division (FED) armory located inside the PNP Headquarters in Camp Crame, Quezon City, were released by the power of a Firearms License for Juridical Entity under the name of the Philippine Marines Corps as well as a purchase order approved by Subala.
“While such scheme is apparently and unfortunately not an isolated one, what is important for our purposes is that this particular incident has been properly investigated and those responsible held to account for the crime committed,” the Fifth Division said.
The convicted individuals will file a motion for reconsideration before the Sandiganbayan and are planning to appeal to the Supreme Court.