BANGUED, Abra—On the eve of the election gun ban, politicians and their families in Abra surrendered 179 licensed firearms to the Philippine National Police for safekeeping and muzzling.
Chief Supt. Benjamin Magalong, Cordillera police director, on Saturday received an assortment of high-powered firearms, handguns and rifles at a ceremony at Camp Juan Villamor, the headquarters of the Abra police.
Gov. Eustaquio Bersamin, the mayors or their representatives from Abra’s 27 towns and village leaders trooped to the police camp at 8:30 a.m. to hand over their guns.
The PNP later in the afternoon knocked on the houses of politicians and residents, looking for concealed weapons.
Magalong said police records showed that 228 firearms had been registered in the province, notorious for a rise in political killings during elections.
Bersamin said relinquishing weapons to the police gave rival families peace of mind, confident they would be safe during the campaign if only authorities roam the province with weapons.
Most of the weapons, which police sealed with masking tape and an identification sticker signed by Abra police officials, were returned to their owners because the licensed owners have the right to use them if they needed to protect themselves, Magalong said.
Police said 45 firearms were taken for safekeeping, while 134 guns were muzzled and returned to local officials who owned them.
Among the guns muzzled were owned by top government officials, like Mayors Ryan Luna (Bangued), Robert Victor “JR” Seares Jr. (Dolores), Benido Bacuyag (Malibcong) and Placido Eduarte Jr. (Tayum) and Governor Bersamin, said Senior Supt. Roberto Soriano, Abra police director.
The police will continue visiting other towns to seal the barrels of licensed guns in the next few days, Magalong said.
“This is a good gesture from our leaders who turned over their firearms for safekeeping. They showed their trust to the police, and they are confident now that they will be protected by the police,” he said. “There is now a level of maturity here.”
Luna, who turned over 17 firearms for safekeeping and muzzling, said he acquired these weapons after he survived an ambush in April 2012. “I turned over my guns because I want to support the government’s call for peaceful elections,” he said.
Luna and Bersamin were the first to turn over their guns, Magalong said.
Bersamin surrendered six guns for muzzling. The governor said the weapons were meant to protect him following the 2006 assassination of his brother, Abra Rep. Luis Bersamin, who was killed at a wedding outside a Quezon City church.
“This peacekeeping effort will help a lot in stopping violence in Abra … I respect the police and my trust in them has been revived. In the past, local policemen were used by politicians … but the Philippine National Police is now serious in curbing violence in Abra,” Bersamin said.