AFP source of loose firearms in Mindanao, says MILF chief

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    MORO Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) chairman Murad Ebrahim yesterday said the Armed Forces is the source of most of the loose firearms in the hands of civilians and even rebels in Mindanao.

    “Most of the firearms are still coming from the armory of the Armed Forces,” Murad, the interim chief minister of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, said in an interview with ABS-CNB.

    Murad said the pilferage “must be from the (military) armory itself.”

    AFP spokesman Brig. Gen. Edgard Arevalo said the military is taking cognizance of Murad’s statement.

    “We are aware that there were losses of firearms and ammunition during armed engagements and ambuscades in the past. And those were properly reflected on records,” said Arevalo. “But given this information and other attendant details from Chairman Murad, we will conduct investigation and inventory.”

    Arevalo said the military has “very strict regulations concerning cases of pilferage.”

    “And should this be the case, we will throw the books at any military personnel found guilty of such offense. And they will be meted stiff penalties under the Articles of War – other criminal and civil punishments applicable, notwithstanding.  We would like to assure Mr. Murad and the public that this is not tolerated in the AFP,” said Arevalo.

    Defense department spokesman Arsenio Andolong said the DND is also taking cognizance of Ebrahim’s remark.

    “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,” said Andolong.

    The MILF and government are in the process of decommissioning firearms of MILF rebels as part of the 2014 peace agreement that paved the way for the establishment of BARMM.

    “I think that’s the main source because now we do not see any firearms or weapons coming outside. Maybe before during the early 70s where there were purchases outside the country but today it’s no longer happening,” said Murad.

    “The government has to address this because all those loose firearms have DND markings,” said Murad.

    Murad also suggested a long-term solution to the problem – to change the mindset of the people that owning weapons translates to survival.

    “One very strong factor that encourages people to buy weapons or purchase weapons is the current mindset and the situation. The mindset is always ‘you can survive if you have weapons,’” he said.