MANILA, Philippines—The Philippine National Police (PNP) has started looking for documents to check if the three Filipino-American brothers who were charged by the US government with gunrunning had businesses in the Philippines.
Chief Supt. Raul Petrasanta, PNP Firearms and Explosives Office (FEO) chief, on Sunday said he had ordered his men to check if Ariel, Rex and Wilfredo Maralit were incorporators of companies engaged in firearms trading in the country.
Rex and Wilfredo, both members of law enforcement agencies in the United States, were arrested separately by American authorities last week.
Ariel, on the other hand, is believed to be in the Philippines and is now the subject of a joint manhunt by US and Philippine authorities.
The three have been charged with conspiracy to violate the US Arms Export Control Act and unlicensed firearms dealing.
Since he was appointed head of the PNP unit tasked with issuing permits to firearms dealers and owners in 2012, Petrasanta said he had yet to hear the names of the Maralit brothers in connection with gun trading.
“I have not encountered them or heard their names,” Petrasanta told the Inquirer in a phone interview.
“But I have directed [my subordinates] to check closely if there are companies [engaged in gun trading] which listed them as incorporators. We’re checking if they have legitimate businesses here,” he said.
Since they were accused of smuggling firearms from the United States to the Philippines, Petrasanta said the PNP-FEO would have no records of the Maralit brothers bringing in guns and ammunition to the country.
Petrasanta said his office could not also determine through which ports the firearms were illegally shipped as the Bureau of Customs had not discovered the contraband.
In its complaint, the US Attorney’s Office said the Maralit brothers smuggled high-powered assault rifles, sniper rifles, handguns and firearm accessories from the United States to the Philippines between January 2009 and March this year.
US authorities said Ariel was assigned to look for buyers in the Philippines while his two older brothers “used their law enforcement credentials” to source the firearms after looking for gun dealers and suppliers on the Internet.
They said the Maralit brothers shipped the disassembled firearms to the Philippines as packages labeled “televisions” and “industrial sliding door tracks.”