FORT STO. DOMINGO, Sta. Rosa, Laguna, Philippines – The Philippine National Police (PNP) is investigating if charges can be filed against pardoned former President Joseph Estrada for joining a parade last March 4 in Carmen, Cebu on board a World War II vintage jeep mounted with a replica of a 30-caliber machine gun.
Estrada and Makati Mayor Jejomar Binay, president of the United Opposition, joined the parade organized by the local town mayor as part of the former president’s nationwide “Lakbay Pasasalamat” tour to thank supporters after he was pardoned by President Arroyo following his conviction of plunder.
PNP chief Director General Jesus Verzosa said the police are now looking into the possibility of filing charges of “gun toting” against Estrada and his companions.
Verzosa said the Central Visayas Police Office (Region 7) in Cebu had confiscated the machine gun replica.
Police said the restored World War II US Army jeep is owned by the husband of Carmen Mayor Sonia Pua and had won in a recent vintage car show in Cebu.
Verzosa directed PNP-Civil Security Group director Chief Superintendent Ireneo Bacolod to monitor the investigation of the incident.
Bacolod said Estrada’s group might have violated Letter of Instruction 1264, signed by former President Ferdinand Marcos in 1982, that bans the import, sale and public display of gun replicas.
However, the trading of air soft guns that are replicas of high-powered rifles is done in the open.
Bacolod said a technical working group would discuss the issue of gun replicas as part of the effort to amend the law on controlling firearms.
Verzosa said local police reported to him that Estrada held a motorcade in Carmen, Cebu on board the military jeep.
He said the police even gathered photographs of Estrada on board the jeep beside the gun replica.
The PNP has decided to regulate the proliferation of gun replicas, which are sometimes used by criminals in carrying out illegal activities, including bank robbery.
‘Bunch of ignoramus’
Estrada hit back at the PNP, calling them a “bunch of ignoramus.”
He dared the police to file charges against him for parading a replica of a machine gun in Carmen, Cebu last March 4 during his “Lakbay Pasasalamat.”
“They are bunch of ignoramus. I challenge them to file the charges in court,” Estrada said, adding he is ready to face the PNP up to the Supreme Court.
Binay described the allegations of gun toting against him and Estrada as “ridiculous and absurd.”
He said the charges are part of the demolition work against opposition leaders.
“The demolition work on genuine oppositionists has obviously started. These allegations should be ignored, but under the Arroyo administration, the ridiculous and the absurd are presented as evidence against administration critics,” Binay said.
“Who knows, they might just charge us with terrorism for going around Cebu with a replica machine gun,” Binay said. With Jose Rodel Clapano, Mike Frialde