PNP seeks release of APC, high-powered guns held as evidence in massacre case
MANILA, Philippines –The Philippine National Police is asking a Quezon City court to release an armored vehicle and some high-powered rifles set to be used as prosecution evidence in the 2009 Maguindanao massacre.
With the 2013 elections only months away, the Police Regional Office in Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao pointed out that it would need the additional firepower in keeping peace and order in the region.
In particular, the PRO-ARMM is appealing for the return of its “Sangoku” armored personnel carrier, two machine guns, 13 rifles and two pistols, which is in the safekeeping of the PNP Region 12 Crime Laboratory Group in the aftermath of raids on several Ampatuan properties following the 2009 Maguindanao massacre.
The PRO-ARMM claimed that the firearms and vehicle in question belong to them, based on their inventory.
“The said firearms are valuable assets which could be issued to police personnel in the field. With the elections coming near, more police personnel are expected to be deployed in the streets, thus increasing the need for long firearms. With increased firepower comes increased police effectiveness in exacting from the citizenry observance of the laws,” the police body said.
The PRO-ARMM also cited the presence of lawless elements in the region in arguing for the release of its firearms.
In an urgent motion for intervention, legal officer Chief Inspector Enrique San Miguel told Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes of Regional Trial Court Branch 221 that the guns have been stored in the evidence room of thr PNP Region 12 CLG.
He noted that although the guns were secure and intact, these need to be released to avoid their deterioration and becoming unserviceable.
The firearms in the court’s custody are two .30 caliber Browning machine guns, 10 M16 Elisco rifles, three M16 Colt rifles, one 9-millimeter Taurus pistol and one 9-mm Beretta pistol.
The Sangoku APC also has two .50 cal. machine guns mounted on it and was seized in 2009 from a ricemill, an Ampatuan-owned ricemill, shortly after the Nov. 23, 2009 Maguindanao massacre.
The PRO-ARMM pointed out that the guns need to be stripped, oiled and cleaned regularly to keep them in good condition, and that storing guns in a closed room could cause rust and further deterioration.
The police body also stressed the need to recover the APC to prevent its wear and tear as it is exposed to the elements in an open field at the PRO 12 headquarters in Tambler, General Santos City.
If returned, the vehicle will be reconditioned for deployment to Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, Basilan or Sulu.
“Be that as it may, rest assured that return of the said firearms and vehicle would not affect the merits of the cases filed against the Ampatuan,” the PRO-ARMM added.
Members of the Ampatuan clan led by prime suspect Andal Ampatuan Jr. are among the 195 charged in the massacre of 58 people, 32 of them media workers in Ampatuan town, Maguindanao on Nov. 23, 2009.
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