Aquino’s pal Petrasanta, cops face arrest over AK-47 deal
The Sandiganbayan has found probable cause to proceed with the trial of graft against sacked Chief Supt. Raul Petrasanta, a close friend of President Benigno Aquino III, and other former officials of the Philippine National Police over the allegedly anomalous sale of rifles to communist rebels.
In a resolution dated Feb. 29 and released on Friday, the antigraft court’s special fifth division ordered the issuance of warrant of arrest against Petrasanta and his coaccused in connection with the missing 1,004 Russian-made AK-47 assault rifles, which were allegedly sold to New People’s Army (NPA) rebels from 2011 to 2013 with the assistance of senior police officials.
Petrasanta, the former chief of the PNP Firearms and Explosives Office, was being eyed to be the next top cop to succeed Alan Purisima and was even endorsed to the President by Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr., but was one of the officials dismissed from service last year for their alleged involvement in a P100-million shady deal with a private courier service company for the delivery of gun licenses.
Following a “judicious, personal, and independent review” of records and supporting documents, the court said it found “substantial evidence on record to support a finding of probable cause against the accused-movants.”
“With regard to the instant motions of the accused, it is noted by the Court that the arguments being raised are essentially based on disputed or disputable factual matters. The court is not expected to accept accused-movants’ version of the facts, hook, line and sinker, and on that basis, dismiss these cases. Such evidentiary matters are to be passed upon and threshed out in the regular course of an adversarial proceeding,” the resolution read.
“The court is mindful that despite finding of probable cause against the accused-movants, the presumption of innocence in their favor remains. The burden is still upon the prosecution to prove their guilt beyond reasonable doubt. Nevertheless, sufficient evidence exists on record to bring these cases to trial and thus give the prosecution the chance to prove the guilt of the accused-movants beyond reasonable doubt for the crime charged against them,” it added.
The resolution was approved by Associate Justice Rolando Jurado, Alexander Gesmundo, and Ma. Theresa Dolores Gomez Estoesta.
Petrasanta’s coacussed were retired PNP directors Gil Meneses and Napoleon Estilles, former chief superintendents Tomas Rentoy III and Regino Catiis, and former Senior Superintendents Eduardo Acierto and Allan Parreño, Supt. Nelson Bautista, Chief Inspectors Ricardo Zapata Jr. and Ricky Sumalde, Senior Police Officers 1 Eric Tan and Randy de Sesto, civilian employees Nora Pirote and Sol Bargan, and Caraga Security Agency’s registered owner Isidro Lozada.
The Sandiganbayan ordered the issuance of arrest warrant against the accused except for Sumalde, whose motion for reconsideration is still pending before the Office of the Ombudsman. RC
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