PNP firearms chief, 14 others sacked over gun licenses

Bebot Sison Jr., Cecille Suerte Felipe - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines – The chief of the police Firearms and Explosives Office and 14 others have been relieved and are under investigation after being implicated in the issuance of License to Own and Possess Firearms (LTOPF) for P15,000 even without the required documents.

Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Director General Ricardo Marquez yesterday approved the relief of FEO head Chief Supt. Elmo Francis Sarona and 14 other policemen and civilian employees linked to the alleged anomalous issuance of the LTOPF.

Director Victor Deona, chief of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG), had earlier confirmed the irregularities after an undercover agent was able to secure an LTOPF despite spurious documents, particularly neuro-psychiatric test results.

Marquez designated Sr. Supt. Cesar Hawthorne Binag as FEO officer-in-charge.

PNP spokesman Chief Supt. Wilben Mayor clarified that the relief of Sarona and his subordinates was an administrative action to prevent the concerned personnel from influencing the outcome of the probe.

Mayor said the investigation stemmed from two separate sting operations by the CIDG Anti-Fraud and Commercial Crimes Unit (AFCCU) in November 2015, wherein undercover agents were able to obtain LTOPF certificates without the submission of the required documentary requirements for a fee of P15,000.

Also relieved from FEO and reassigned to the Office of the Director, Civil Security Group (CSG) were Sr. Insp. Edward Oñate, Senior Police Officer 2 Darwin Miguel, SPO1 Edward Bondoc, PO3 Ferdinand Sapla, PO3 Alberto Dominong Jr., PO3 Ben Ferel, PO3 Joan Liza Young, PO3 Roy del Rosario, PO3 Rodel Crisostomo, PO3 Emmanuel Cajulao, PO3 Bernard Catungal and civilian employees Audita Cabbab, Emelia Lorenzo and Edith Famillaran.

Deona said the CIDG is set to file criminal charges of falsification of official documents against 12 persons for the alleged falsification of neuro-psychiatric clearance certificates recovered from personnel of gun dealer Reloader Guns and Ammo Trading.

The CIDG chief identified them as Romeo Paul Taruc, John Roel Cruz and Ronnello Maningding Taruc, all officers of a private gun dealer.

Also facing charges were nine other persons whose names appear in spurious neuro-psychiatric clearance certificates: Nelson Caballa, Renato Docin, Alvin Chua, Edgar Derecho, Jayken Celi, Gabriel Estrella, Reginald Lee, Noel Susano and Michael Angelo Desquitado.

Marquez also granted CIDG-AFCCU full access to FEO records to determine the extent of the irregularities and identify other fraudulent entries made into the LTOPF database.

For his part, Sarona said the investigation stemmed from a case of fake neuro-psychiatric test result discovered after approval of the LTOPF.

“While we have to admit some vulnerabilities in our system and human frailty in processing, like our verifier/processor at first glance can only ensure the completeness of the requirements and not the authenticity, same is true in our system,” Sarona told The STAR.

Sarona admitted that while the FEO system is now automated, the computer cannot determine the intrinsic value of the documents being scanned, but all of these are addressed through rotation of personnel and enhancement of IT structure.

“With the average of 400 to 600 LTOPF being processed daily plus the pressure of applicants’ expectation of fast processing of LTOPF, one or two do get away with fake docs,” he pointed out.

Sarona gave assurance that FEO through CSG is doing its best to cure the shortcomings through IT upgrading and proper human intervention to really be efficient in giving services to the people insofar as firearm regulation/licensing is concerned.

“Personally, I’m very optimistic that FEO can level up its services since no less than the PNP chief made this as one of his priority projects, the decentralization of FA processing whereby we will be opening satellite offices in the regions to bring FA services right at the doorsteps of the people/gun holders, especially for those from the Visayas and Mindanao,” he added.

In the past, Sarona said he has recommended the dismissal of careless, negligent or erring personnel, including senior officers.

“Such is not tolerated, but if in the event it does or will exist, the author/s must have to be held liable,” he added.

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