AK-47: NPA rebels’ weapon of choice

Edwin G. Espejo

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AK-47: NPA rebels’ weapon of choice
NPA rebels in Mindanao started brandishing their AK-47s at about the same time that some 1,000 of these assault rifles were bought by a businessman based in the region

GENERAL SANTOS CITY, Philippines – Long before the Philippine National Police (PNP) disclosed that some 1,004 AK-47 rifles may have been surreptitiously sold to the underground New People’s Army (NPA), a senior cadre of the rebel group already told reporters that hundreds of AK-47s are now in the hands of Red fighters.

Photos of NPA rebels brandishing their AK-47s began appearing with regularity a couple of years ago, at about the same time that the Philippine police said a broker purchased the rifles purportedly for security forces of mining companies in Mindanao. The broker, identified as Isidro Lozada, then sought clearance and licenses from the the PNP Firearms and Explosive Office.

It turned out that the companies where these weapons were to be delivered were fictitious. By the time the PNP discovered the anomaly, some of the AK-47s had apparently been test-fired by the NPAs in ambushes and encounters with government troops. 


Ka Efren, spokesman of the National Democratic Front (NDF) in Far South Mindanao Region, said they find the Chinese variant of the assault rifle efficient and durable. The NDF is the political arm of the communist rebels.

The AK-47 was designed by the late Russian inventor Mikhael Kalashnikov and put into mass production in 1947. The Avtomat Kalashnikov (Kalasnikov’s Automatic) has since undergone little changes.

It has become an iconic weapon of liberation armies and rebel forces throughout the world.

The NPA’s red flag even has an AK-47 in its emblem although for years, Asia’s longest running communist insurgency has been relying mostly on government standard M-16 rifles. 

In an interview somewhere in Cotabato province middle of 2013, Ka Efren said they were able to procure caches of AK-47s from gunrunners and government sources. Police and military authorities said an AK-47 costs P52,000 in the open market.

Throughout Mindanao, especially in the Davao, Caraga and Cotabato regions, young NPA guerrillas now carry the Soviet era-designed Kalashnikov rifle. 

Some say about 30% of the issued firearms of NPA regulars are now AK-47 rifles. 

Enough to arm a brigade

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesman Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala said if the number of AK-47 rifles now in the hands of the NPA rebels is accurate, this is enough to arm a standard army brigade.

Maj. Gen. Ricardo Rainier Cruz, commanding general of the AFP’s Eastern Mindanao Command, earlier ordered an investigation of the proliferation of AK-47s among communist guerrillas after his troops seized a handful of these firearms during encounters with the rebels.

His order came after the Philippine Army’s 27th Brigade intercepted 4 AK-47s at a checkpoint in Tboli, South Cotabato. The arms were supposedly transported by the NPAs from Tulunan in Cotabato for its guerrilla front in the said province.

Cruz said they have been monitoring cargo ships making port calls in Surigao provinces where there are heavy mining activities, mostly mineral ore extraction by Chinese mining companies. 

Cruz suspected that the AK-47s came from China.

Early smuggling attempts

The AK-47s used to be issued only to top cadres of the communist underground movement. But they’re seldom used and fired because of the difficulty in getting ammunition for such weapons. 

UP TO WHEN? Due to limited ammo supply, the AK-47s are rarely used. Photo by Edwin Espejo

The first batch of AK-47s to reach the NPA had come from what was left in the arms landing for the rebels in 1972, the so-called MV Karagatan smuggling incident off Isabela. More than 1,200 M-14 and AK-47 rifles were shipped from China, which was then actively supporting and arming communist insurgencies in Asia. 

Various accounts showed the ship ran aground off the shores of Palanan in Isabela and was spotted by a reconnaissance plane of the AFP. A fierce encounter took place, prompting the guerrillas to withdraw. They were only able to recover a few hundred rifles, including AK-47s.


The AK-47 is a favorite assault rifle because of its durability even under extreme conditions. Its accuracy is rated as “good enough.” 

Most armies have found the AK-47 easy to operate. No wonder it is also the world’s most smuggled assault rifle and is a favorite among criminals and syndicates.

Records showed that around 75 million AK-47s and their variants have been manufactured. In contrast, the standard M16 rifles used by Western countries and their allies have built only 8 million. Including their variants, the AK-47s now in use worldwide could number up to 100 million, or almost 1/5 of the world’s manufactured assault weapons.

But with police and military police authorities now keeping a tight watch on more AK-47s landing in the hands of state enemies, NPA rebels could find themselves brandishing assault rifles with limited supply of bullets. 

Unless the NPAs build their own ordnance production team, they might soon discard their iconic weapons and revert to “cleaning up” M-16s during ambuscades and raids. – Rappler.com


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