THE case of a Cebu City policeman who was arrested for reportedly stealing loose firearms stored for safekeeping under the vaunted Philippine National Police Oplan: Katok has prompted an accounting of thousands of unregistered firearms surrendered to the police nationwide by their registered owners since 2016, the Journal Group learned yesterday.
Corporal Marlito Portugueza is now facing criminal and administrative charges for allegedly stealing at least 12 unlicensed guns from the safety vault of the Cebu Waterfront Police Station, said Cebu City Police Office chief, Colonel Engelbert Soriano.
The stolen firearms belong to several local residents who deposited them with the local police while processing the renewal of their registration papers with the PNP Firearms and Explosives Office.
The policeman was arrested by agents of the PNP Integrity Monitoring and Enforcement Group during an operation in Barangay Tinago 4 a.m. Thursday last week. Six firearms recovered from the suspect’s possession turned out to be among those deposited to the Cebu City police.
An investigation showed that the suspect who is now being held at the Cebu City police lock-up facility used to be assigned with the local Drug Enforcement Unit until he was transferred to the investigation division.
PNP-IMEG director, Colonel Ronald O. Lee said that he has informed PNP chief, General Archie Francisco F. Gamboa of their move to conduct an inventory of all guns deposited to the police under their Oplan: Katok.
Lee also said he has ordered his men to conduct follow-up operations to identify and arrest the personalities who bought the firearms from Portugueza and at the same time recover the missing guns.
Soriano said he has ordered an inventory of all firearms stored for safekeeping in all 13 Cebu City police stations after getting a report that a local resident kept bragging about having purchased a gun from a policeman.
The official said that the suspect was arrested after the inventory showed there were 12 missing firearms supposedly under his custody.
He added that several witnesses have testified against the cop, one of them said to have been offered money by Portugueza in exchange for his silence when he saw him in the act of opening the vault and getting the deposited firearms.
The PNP leadership earlier maintained that their ongoing Oplan: Katok is sparing no one as part of its program to account for loose firearms which can be used to commit violence in the streets.
As part of the continuing strict enforcement of the PNP Oplan: Katok, Gen. Gamboa has ordered his uniformed officers to knock on the doors of gun holders with expired firearm licenses and request them to renew their permits within a given period.
Since the start of the Duterte administration, the PNP has stepped-up its crackdown against loose firearms and gun dealers to arrest gun-related cases in the country.
During Oplan Katok, a gun holder with expired license is advised to apply for renewal. Should the owner decide not to renew the firearm license and just surrender the firearm, an acknowledgement receipt shall be provided by the inspector to be signed by the firearm holder. For lost firearms, the gun holder should execute an affidavit of loss stating the reason why it was lost and should be supported by a police investigation report.
Likewise, for a sold firearm, the vendee is required to facilitate the transfer of ownership of the firearm at the Firearms and Explosives Office (FEO). A mere deed of sale does not constitute a complete transaction.
In case of death of the licensed firearm holder, family members or relatives should report it to the FEO for the subsequent revocation of the license and will be advised on the process for the transfer of ownership of the firearm.
Under the law, particularly Republic Act 1059 or the Comprehensive Law on Firearms and Ammunition, the PNP chief, through the FEO, shall issue licenses to qualified individuals and cause the registration of firearms.
Only small arms may be registered by licensed citizens or licensed juridical entities for ownership, possession and concealed carry. A light weapon shall be lawfully acquired or possessed exclusively by the AFP, the PNP and other law enforcement agencies authorized by the President in the performance of their duties
RA 10591 says that the registration of the firearm shall be renewed every four years. Failure to renew the registration of the firearm on or before the date of expiration shall cause the revocation of the license of the firearm and could be considered as loose firearm. The said firearm shall be confiscated or forfeited in favor of the government after due process.
Loose firearm refers to an unregistered firearm, an obliterated or altered firearm, firearm which has been lost or stolen, illegally manufactured firearms, registered firearms in the possession of an individual other than the licensee and those with revoked licenses in accordance with the rules and regulations.
Those who cannot immediately renew their firearm licenses for various reasons are requested to temporarily turnover their guns to the nearest police station or the PNP -FEO for temporary safekeeping until they have renewed their papers.