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DND to probe claim of ‘weapons leak’

Part of the cache of firearms that the Moro Islamic Liberation Front is handing in for decommissioning. (Photo by Bong Sarmiento, Inquirer Mindanao)

The Department of National Defense (DND) will conduct an inventory of the military’s firearms and ammunition after the interim head of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) alleged most loose firearms in Mindanao have markings that indicate these belong to the department.

BARMM Interim Chief Minister Murad Ebrahim said in a television interview on Wednesday that the markings could mean there was a “leakage” from the government armory.

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He added that the firearms found their way in the hands of civilians, private armies and rebels.

Armed Forces of the Philippines spokesperson Brig. Gen. Edgar Arevalo said there were instances when government-issued firearms and ammunition were lost “during armed engagements and ambuscades.”

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In separate statements, Arevalo and DND spokesperson Arsenio Andolong said that  they were taking cognizance of Murad’s statement, hence the investigation.

“We assure the public that anyone from the defense establishment who is found guilty of gunrunning or pilferage of firearms and munitions will be dealt with severely and sanctioned accordingly … The DND will not tolerate any individuals or groups that violate Philippine gun laws,” Andolong said.

For his part, Arevalo said that the AFP will “throw the book at any military personnel found guilty” and “will be meted stiff penalties under the Articles of War and other criminal and civil punishments applicable.”

The DND probe comes as President Duterte is set to oversee on Thursday the decommissioning of firearms of more than 700 former rebels from a breakaway group that signed a peace pact with the government nearly 20 years ago.

At least 337 firearms from members of the Revolutionary Proletarian Army-Alex Boncayao Brigade (RPA-ABB) will be turned over to Camp Gen. Macario B. Peralta Jr. in Jamindan town in Capiz, headquarters of the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division (3ID).

The RPA-ABB members from the Tabara-Paduano faction, mostly from Negros Island, formed themselves under the Kapatiran para sa Progresibong Panlipunan (Kapatiran).

Capt. Cenon Pancito III, 3ID spokesperson, said qualified Kapatiran members will undergo a two-month military training and will be issued firearms by the government as members of the Special Civilian Active Auxiliary (SCAA).

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The SCAA will be deployed in Peace Development Communities (PDC) sites where Kapatiran members reside and livelihood programs are being implemented.  There are currently eight PDC sites including six on Negros Island and two on Panay Island.

The decommissioning does not include the RPA-ABB Nilo dela Cruz group.

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TAGS: AFP, Arsenio Andolong, BARMM, DND, loose firearms, MILF decommissioning, Murad Ebrahim, weapons leak
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