Over 400 loose weapons surrendered in Basilan
ZAMBOANGA CITY — Saying loose firearms could distort the upcoming village polls, Basilan Gov. Jim Hataman-Salliman called on local government officials in the province to help authorities convince community folk to turn in their unlicensed guns to the government.
Hataman said the quality of the electoral outcome “will be gravely affected” if guns could be deployed easily by those running for posts in the village polls.
“If there are still guns during the barangay election, the quality of the (Bangsamoro) peace process will also be put into question,” Salliman added.
Salliman was referring to the normalization program contained in the peace agreement between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) that was signed in 2014.
Under the peace deal, the MILF has to decommission 40,000 former combatants of its armed wing, the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF), and turn in to the Turkiye-led Independent Decommissioning Body over 7,000 weapons so these could be put beyond use.
Parallel to the BIAF’s decommissioning, the national government, through the Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace, Reconciliation, and Unity launched the Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW) program that seeks to siphon off the loose firearms from the general public.
Salliman, who was among those who called for fast-tracking the disbandment of the BIAF, lauded the Lantawan local government for helping collect loose firearms.
Last Monday, Lantawan Mayor Nursiya Ismael handed over 34 unlicensed guns to the Army’s 19th Special Forces Company in Isabela City, bringing the surrendered guns in the province to 404 since 2020 under the SALW program.
The program, Salliman noted, had stenciled 4,323 weapons, which means these were rendered unserviceable.
This is almost the same number as the weapons turned in, so far, by the BIAF, which is concentrated largely in Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, and Lanao del Norte provinces.
Salliman said their goal was to make Basilan free of loose guns.
Unidentified individuals from different villages of Lantawan turned over the weapons, which included two M16 rifles, one grenade launcher, four Garand rifles, one Carbine rifle, five shotguns, two .45 pistols, 14 caliber .38 pistols, one 9mm, one KG9 rifle, one .357 pistol, and two .22 pistols.
The military did not mention how the unidentified individuals acquired the weapons.
Colonel Frederick Sales, deputy commander of the Army’s 101st Brigade in Basilan, attributed the accomplishment to the collaborative efforts of the 4th Special Forces Battalion under Lieutenant Colonel Bernard Samin and the municipal government of Lantawan.
Sales said the turned-over firearms were deposited at an Army camp for safekeeping while waiting to be stenciled.