One of best-armed PNP units may be in Isabela
By Villamor Visaya
Last updated 05:26am (Mla time) 07/19/2006
Published on Page A1 of the July 19, 2006 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer
SANTIAGO CITY, Isabela -- With their latest acquisition of at least 96 high-powered firearms, including 20 AK-47 assault rifles, the 135-strong city police force may be one of the best armed law enforcement units in the country today.
The guns, worth P2.8 million, were purchased and donated to the police force by the city government, led by Mayor Amelita Navarro, amid charges by her political rivals that the transactions were railroaded in a special session of the city council.
In Quezon City, Camp Crame officials welcomed the donation yesterday but quickly added that their arsenal did not include the AK-47, an assault rifle created by Russian Mikhail Kalashnikov in the 1940s and the favorite weapon of the communists in the Vietnam War.
We do not issue AK-47s. We do not have bullets for AK-47s [in storage]. Thats the problem, said Chief Superintendent Prudencio Regis, deputy chief of the PNP Directorate for Logistics.
The rifle can fire 600 rounds a minute (10 bullets per second) and can kill a person 1.5 km away, according to Janes Guns Recognition Guide. Its magazine capacity is 30 rounds and its cartridge is wider than those of other high-powered weapons.
Regis said he would appreciate it if local governments, before donating firearms, coordinated with his office or the local logistics unit so they could be advised on what weapons to buy.
Representative Anthony Miranda and Vice Mayor Armando Tan have asked Camp Crame officials to reject the donation, alleging illegal and unlawful circumstances in getting the city councils approval for the deal.
The mayor dismissed her rivals claims as baseless. She told the Inquirer that the guns were bought at most affordable prices.
Unfazed by the complaint, Navarro turned over on Monday the AK-47 assault rifles worth P900,000, two Rock Island armory HP sniper rifles worth P160,000 and four Federal sub-machine pistols worth P250,000 to the Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) unit and noncommissioned policemen here.
Navarro also issued 70 pistols worth P1,413,550 for 70 policemen.
The majority of the city council members approved the resolution to buy and donate the firearms, saying that adequately armed and equipped officers will increase the morale of the police force and such will redound to the benefit of the residents.
For the past months, the city has been experiencing a series of multimillion-peso robberies and car thefts.
But Vice Mayor Tan said the gun purchase came on the heels of the local governments austerity measures and that the funds should have been used for social and infrastructure projects.
Will she arm the police or her private army? I do not know who will benefit from the [gun purchase]. She should have allotted that money for the communication and transport facilities for policemen. That is a better option, he said.
Senior Police Officer 4 Loriel Mamaclay, SWAT team leader, said the guns would be used to fight criminality as only 35 of the 135 city policemen had side arms issued by the Philippine National Police.
Almost all of our noncommissioned officers have not been issued firearms so we welcome these issuances, he said.
Senior Supt. Rolando Diaz, city police chief, said he was happy over the donation as he voiced confidence that the police could now fight robbers and other criminals.
Although the purchase of ammunition has been decentralized -- meaning each regional police unit can buy bullets as it sees fit -- Regis said the National Police Commission (Napolcom) had already specified what firearms and bullets to purchase.
If the PNP regional office buys AK-47 bullets for the Santiago police, it might be buying equipment not specified either by the Napolcom or the PNP, the official said.
For the PNP to buy these bullets, the use of the AK-47 would have to be approved by Camp Crame and Napolcom and must be subjected to testing and evaluation, Regis said.
Senior Supt. Job Antonio, chief of the logistics offices supply management division, surmised that the AK-47 rifles were imported. Russia and China were among the countries that produce it, he said.
The logistics officers agreed that an AK-47 was cheaper than other high-powered firearms, such as the Bushmaster, which could cost up to P100,000 each.
Prices of AK-47s being sold on the Internet range from $500 to $1,500, depending on the rifles variant and accessories. With reports from Luige A. del Puerto in Manila and Cyril L. Bonabente, PDI Research