Crackdown begins on loose firearms in Maguindanao del Norte ahead of elections gun ban

Rommel Rebollido

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Crackdown begins on loose firearms in Maguindanao del Norte ahead of elections gun ban

CHECKPOINT. Policemen check on a passing vehicle along a road in in Sultan Kudarat town, Maguindanao del Norte.

PNP-Sultan Kudarat town photo

With the barangay and youth elections approaching, authorities say it is crucial to retrieve unregistered guns to minimize the likelihood of violence

GENERAL SANTOS, Philippines – Police and military authorities have started a crackdown on unregistered firearms in Maguindanao del Norte ahead of next month’s gun ban in time for the barangay and youth elections.

Colonel Sultan Salman Sapal, the police chief of Maguindanao del Norte, warned on Tuesday, July 11, that authorities were determined to run after people in possession of loose firearms.

Sapal said the police are currently validating information regarding residents who possess unregulated firearms.

“We will secure search warrants and actively pursue these individuals once we have obtained evidence,” he told local broadcaster Radyo Bandera-Cotabato.

In preparation for the upcoming October elections, both the police and military have heightened security measures in the province.

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) has designated the election period to commence on August 28 and conclude on November 29, during which a gun ban will be enforced.

In the neighboring Maguindanao del Sur, Brigadier General Oriel Pangcog, commander of the Army’s 601st Infantry Brigade, has instructed troops to enhance security and initiate a crackdown on unregistered firearms.

Pangcog said combating unregulated firearms and private armed groups remains a top priority for the Army in the Bangsamoro provinces.

The military estimates that the region possesses hundreds of unregistered firearms, including approximately 100 from the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) and around 60 from the Dawlah Islamiyah terrorist group.

“With the elections approaching, it is crucial to retrieve these unregistered firearms to minimize the likelihood of violence,” he said.

In Maguindanao del Norte, Sapal disclosed that at least 250 police officers are undergoing training to serve as poll clerks or members of the board of elections inspectors (BEI) for the upcoming October barangay polls.

Sapal clarified that this measure serves as a contingency plan in case public school teachers, who typically fulfill BEI roles, are unavailable due to security concerns during the barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) elections.

He said they were reviewing the list of barangays in the 12 towns of Maguindanao del Norte to determine which villages should be classified as areas of concern.

Sapal said additional security forces will be deployed to the identified hotspots in the barangays.

Authorities are organizing a “peace summit” in Maguindanao del Norte, which will involve police and military officials, regional and provincial representatives, 221 barangay chairpersons, 12 town mayors, and representatives from various sectors. The summit is scheduled to take place before the end of the month, according to Sapal.

Since January, the Bangsamoro region has recorded over 200 shooting incidents, mostly resulting in deaths. Many of these incidents have been attributed to intense political rivalries.

Sapal said more than a dozen of these gun attacks targeted government officials.

As authorities announced the crackdown on unregistered firearms, two local officials in Maguindanao del Norte immediately surrendered their weapons.

Moharimen Ragundo, the barangay chairman of Panggao in Barira town, handed over a caliber .45 pistol and ammunition to the Philippine Marines stationed in the town on Tuesday, July 11.

Salik Salem, another barangay chairman from Manggay, Talitay town, surrendered an M14 rifle and ammunition to the local police chief.

Both officials informed the authorities that they possessed the firearms for self-defense purposes. –

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