Llamas says AK-47 for self-defense
Ronald Llamas claims he has been receiving death threats as President Benigno Aquino III’s political adviser and his weapon of choice to defend himself is the AK-47.
The Soviet-designed assault rifle is not too complicated and is of high caliber, according to Llamas.
“It can perform well if there is an ambush, or when a high caliber firearm is fired at you. So, that combination of simplicity and capacity, I think, it’s the right choice,” said Llamas, who sometimes joins Mr. Aquino, a gun enthusiast himself, on the shooting range.
Unfortunately for Llamas, his AK-47, along with four other firearms, were found in his vehicle when the Mitsubishi Montero figured in a road accident with his two security aides on board on October 7 while he was in Switzerland. Its discovery, and surreptitious disappearance created a stink.
The cache was purchased in the past few months after police found “credible threats” on his personal security, said Llamas in a news briefing yesterday at the Palace shortly after his return from his Swiss trip.
Llamas expressed “deep regret” for the incident involving two “close-in aides”—Joey Valderama Tecson and John Brilliant Alarcon—whom he had ordered dismissed for using his vehicle “for their own personal purposes, without authorization and against explicit office policies.”
Chief Superintendent George Regis, director of the Quezon City Police District, said the AK-47 was taken out of the Montero before police investigators arrived at the scene after the accident. He said this was highly irregular and smacked of an attempt at a “cover-up.”
Llamas said in a statement there had been “no attempt by anyone to withhold information about the incident, either from the police, media or the public, or to allow those found responsible to escape culpability for their actions.”
“Neither I nor my office will ask for or countenance ‘special treatment’ in this regard,” Llamas said.
Llamas said his firearms were purchased in June because as early as April and May, there were unidentified men casing his Quezon City home. He also recalled that in May a black Honda Civic had followed him when he fetched his daughter from school.
He said he also had received death threats but that these were not as many as before.
“Still, we are nervous about this because if the death threats stopped, probably it means this could be serious,” Llamas said, adding that this prompted him to seek “official police support” last month.
As to who may be behind the death threats, Llamas said he did not know but said this may have to do with his job as presidential political adviser or as the previous head of the leftist party Akbayan.
He said his office had been involved in so many issues, including investigations of corruption cases against former President and now Pampanga Representative Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
“There are many issues that may have seen us stepping on the toes of some people,” he said.
Llamas said his AK-47 rifle was duly licensed and that he also had an M-16 and three other short firearms.
He said the AK-47 rifle was for his own use and that he knew how and was competent to handle it, being a “shooter” himself. He gave himself a “six to seven” rating on a scale of one to 10, with 10 being expert in firing a gun.
Philippine National Police Director General Nicanor Bartolome said the case was under investigation but that Llamas appeared to have acted “in good faith.”
The chief of the PNP Firearms and Explosives Division, Chief Superintendent Napoleon Estiles, also said Llamas appeared to have no liability and blamed the political adviser’s bodyguards for the fiasco.
“If you ask me, on the administrative side I do not see any liability of Secretary Llamas,” Estiles said, adding that civilians can get a gun license for an AK-47.
“We allow that. There are rules and regulations that allow civilians to possess high-powered firearms,” he said.
Representative Ignacio “Iggy” Arroyo, brother-in-law of the former President, asked why Llamas was being allowed to carry a high-powered firearm while congressmen were not.
“What made him such a sacred horse? Is his position so delicate that his life is under threat? Di lang utak wangwang, utak bang-bang pa,” the Negros Oriental representative said, referring to Mr. Aquino’s “bawal ang wangwang” policy which frowns on vehicles using sirens, blinkers and violating traffic rules.
Gabriela Representative Luzviminda Ilagan told reporters that the President and his Cabinet were in danger of losing their “moral ascendancy if they let this incident go by.”
“Malacañang would be serving the people better if it devoted its time not in defending (Llamas) but in advancing peace negotiations with the armed groups with legitimate causes,” said Makabayan spokesperson Liza Maza.
Senator Panfilo Lacson, a former PNP chief, said Llamas’ aides could be liable.
“Who were they securing if Secretary Llamas was in Switzerland? Themselves? If their principal is the one under threat, why were they still carrying high-powered firearms while he was away,” Lacson asked.
Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile said if the bodyguards were soldiers or police officers and were on a mission, they did not need a permit to carry firearms.
“Also you have to consider the position of (Llamas). If he is holding a sensitive position and exposed to threats as high government official, he is entitled to protect himself,” Enrile added. With reports from Dona Z. Pazzibugan, Penelope P. Endozo, Gil C. Cabacungan Jr. and Cathy Yamsuan