DAVAO CITY, Philippines – With the military expressing alarm over the alleged involvement of senior police officers in the missing AK47s, army soldiers stepped up efforts to seize high-powered rifles from communist rebels.
Captain Alberto Caber, public affairs chief of the military’s Eastern Mindanao Command, said military units have already recovered at least 45 AK-47 rifles from communist guerrillas since 2013.
“Out of 45 AK-47 rifles, fourteen (14) were surrendered by communist rebels who availed of the AFP’s Guns for Peace Program,” Caber said.
The rest of the rifles were recovered in gun battles in in North Cotabato, Bukidnon, Caraga and in the Davao region, he added.
The Philippine National Police is preparing charges against at least 19 of its personnel for the disappearance of at least 1,004 AK-47 rifles that an investigation showed landed in the hands of the communist New People’s Army (NPA).
A PNP probe in 2013 showed that these firearms were supposed to have been purchased for mining firms and security agencies. How these firms managed to get approval for the purchase of such a huge number of weapons is the subject of the same investigation.
Caber said Eastern Mindanao Command chief Lt. Gen. Ricardo Rainier G. Cruz III already instructed ground units to help investigate and trace the source of the NPA’s war materiel.
“Gen. Cruz already launched an investigation last year to trace the sources and suppliers of the NPA,” Caber said.
A military source said the serial numbers of some of the recovered rifles were traced to a security agency in Agusan del Norte.
Cruz said they have already coordinated with the PNP in tracking the source of the rifles. “We coordinated with the PNP Firearms and Explosive Division (PNP-FED) to trace the source of these AK-47 rifles” Lt. Gen Cruz said.
The NPA gets its firearms and ammunication in the black market or in the battlefield or during raids at government installations or private companies.
In April 2012, the NPA raided the armory of a private security agency that works for a mining company in Butuan City and carted away with 66 firearms including 46 AK-47 assault rifle, three caliber 308 sniper rifle,10 automatic shotgun, 7 9-mm with 12 magazine and ammunition, 147 AK rifle magazines, shotgun ammunition, and 67 AK ammunition vests.
One of the largest raids of the NPA was the 2007 operation at the Davao Penal Colony in Sto Tomas, Davao del Norte, where they were able to confiscate 105 high-powered rifles, 3 short firearms, two handheld VHF radios and several rounds of ammunition.
The NPA has been waging Asia’s longest running communist insurgency. Eastern Mindanao remains to be one of its bailiwicks, where it targets mining companies and plantations.
Various attempts by Philippine governments to seek a political solution to the conflict have failed. The peace process initiated by the Aquino government with the NPA’s political arm, the National Democratic Front, bogged down in December 2013. Rappler.com