Lawmakers hit CIDG probe of missing rifles

Posted at 06/07/14 9:30 AM

MANILA, Philippines - Members of the House committee on public order and safety are not satisfied with the investigation of the Philippine National Police (PNP) into the missing high-powered firearms that it claimed fell into the hands of communist rebels.

During last Wednesday’s hearing of the committee chaired by Negros Occidental Rep. Jeffrey Ferrer, lawmakers said they were very suspicious of what they described as a premature conclusion of the PNP Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) that the 1,004 AK-47 rifles were sold to the New People’s Army (NPA) by Caraga Security Agency owner Isidro Lozada.

Antipolo City Rep. Romeo Acop, vice chairman of the panel, also asked why the PNP did not cancel Lozada’s license to operate the security agency when the CIDG claimed it was he who facilitated all 23 transactions for the rifles.

“Are you trying to tell this representation that the NPA can pay P52 million for firearms?” Acop asked CIDG Director Benjamin Magalong during the hearing.

Acop, a lawyer and former CIDG director, also asked Magalong if they had checked Lozada’s financial capability to determine if it was really his money that was used to purchase all firearms worth P52 million from Twin Pines, Inc.

“Is Lozada capable of purchasing such a large number of firearms? Because if he’s not capable of spending P52 million for 1,004 firearms, then somebody must be behind his back, somebody who is moneyed,” he said.

Paper trail

For the next hearing of the committee, Acop asked Twin Pines general manager Servando Topacio, who was present during the hearing, to submit the company’s bills of lading for the 23 transactions involving the 1,004 firearms it sold to Lozada, including their packing list.

He also asked Twin Pines to submit pertinent documents showing how many magazines and ammunitions were sold to Lozada.

ACT-CIS party-list Rep. Samuel Pagdilao, another committee vice chairman, questioned why the Civil Security Group (CSG) has not taken any action against Lozada and his security agency.

Pagdilao, also a lawyer and former CIDG director, said there is an apparent lack of foresight and understanding on the part of the CSG on what responsibility is.

Asked by Ferrer if the CIDG will file a case against Lozada, Magalong said his office will definitely do so. Magalong said Lozada was cooperative during the investigation but he opted to submit an unsigned affidavit.

Ferrer said the committee will summon Lozada if he still fails to attend next week’s hearing.

During Pagdilao’s questioning of Topacio, the businessman said all the 23 transactions with Lozada were for four companies namely Caraga Security Agency, Isla Security Agency, JTC Mineral Mining Corp. and Claver Mineral Development Corp.

Topacio said only Lozada dealt with Twin Pines in its Butuan City branch, representing himself as the following: owner and security provider for Caraga Security Agency; security provider for JTC Mineral Mining Corp.; security provider for Claver Mineral Development Corp.; and part owner of Isla Security Agency.

The lawmakers asked Topacio to submit the number of firearms per tranche as they came in, including the duties and taxes, and also the list of Twin Pines’ firearms buyers.