THE Armed Forces of the Philippines-Eastern Mindanao Command (AFP-Eastmincom) on Tuesday said the AK-47 assault rifles it recovered in various encounters with the communist New People’s Army (NPA) were among those stolen from the arsenal of the Philippine National Police (PNP) and believed to be sold to the underground movement.
Eastmincom spokesman Capt. Alberto Caber said they have been aware of the situation for a year. Eastmincom chief Lt. Gen. Ricardo Rainier Cruz called the attention of the police and coordinated with the PNP Firearms and Explosive Division (FED) in tracing the source of the AK-47 rifles.
“Yes [they were part of the AK-47s stolen from the PNP]. Our commanding general, Lt. Gen. Ricardo Rainier Cruz, demanded an investigation after a series of AK-47 rifle recoveries following several encounters between the soldiers and CPP-NPA,” Caber added.
In Eastern Mindanao alone, he pointed out, government troops have been able to recover 45 AK-47 rifles in clashes in some parts of Cotabato and Bukidnon provinces, Caraga and Davao Regions since 2013.
Out of 45 rifles, 14 were surrendered by Maoist rebels who availed of the AFP’s Guns for Peace Program.
The latest recovery of four AK-47 rifles on June 8 followed an encounter between soldiers from the 30th Infantry Battalion and NPA elements in Bargy. Cambuayon, Cacuag, Surigao del Norte.
Similar type of assault rifles were also recovered in encounters in Negros Oriental, Negros Occidental, Sorsogon, Surigao del Sur, Bukidnon, South Cotabato, Wesstern Samar, Agusan del Norte and Compostela Valley, among others.
It was in March this year that PNP Director General Alan Purisima ordered the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) to investigate the missing AK-47 and Armalite rifles.
Last week, CIDG Director Benjamin Magalong announced that 1,004 AK-47 assault rifles were missing from the FED.
The CIDG linked at least 19 PNP officials, including four active police generals, and 10 civilians to the anomaly.
But following the CIDG announcement, PNP spokesman Chief Supt. Reuben Theodore Sindac immediately defended the beleaguered police officials, saying that the statement of the CIDG chief was “premature.”
Sindac even quoted Purisima as saying that “in the absence of any hard evidence,” everything was considered “speculations and hearsay.”
Among those earlier linked to the anomalous disappearance of the rifles were PNP Civil Security Group Director Gil Meneses; Police Regional Office 3 commander, Chief Supt. Raul Petrasanta; Chief Supt. Tom Rentoy of the Supervisory Office for Security Investigation Agencies; PNP Directorate for Comptrollership executive director, Senior Supt. Regie Catiees; and Senior Supt. Eduardo Acierto Jr.
All five have denied the allegations against them.
Meneses and Petrasanta were former directors of the PNP-Firearms and Explosives Office (FEO) while Catiis and Acierto were former chiefs of the licensing division of the PNP-FEO.
Rentoy officially retired last February 26 while Meneses is due to retire this month and has already filed for non-duty status.
Magalalong earlier explained that the missing firearms were not procured by the PNP but by JTC Mineral Mining Corp. for the use of its security forces against the NPA and other lawless elements.
The high-powered firearms reportedly were originally imported by Twin Pines Inc., a license importers of firearms, gun parts, ammunition and shooting accessories, and later sold to JTC.
However, when the PNP conducted a nationwide gun check, it was discovered that the weapons were missing from JTC’s inventory.