From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 13): 25 loose firearms surrendered in Maguindanao town
Mayor Zamzamin Ampatuan of Rajah Buayan, Maguindanao on Monday hands over a caliber .30 machine gun to Brig. Gen. Diosdado Carreon, Army's 601st Infantry Brigade commander, during the turnover ceremonies of loose firearms the local government collected from the residents. (Photo courtesy: 601st Infantry Brigade)
RAJAH BUAYAN, Maguindanao -- The number of civilians yielding unlicensed firearms is increasing with the intervention of more local government executives in this province, officials said Tuesday.
On Monday, Mayor Zamzamin Ampatuan of this town turned over 25 loose firearms to Brig. Gen. Diosdao Carreon, Army’s 601st Infantry Brigade comamnder, in a ceremony held at the town’s gymnasium.
Ampatuan said the high-powered firearms were collected from residents through the municipal government's “Balik Baril Program” launched in support to the Army’s 6th Infantry Division disarmament program.
Ampatuan said his town is enjoying relative peace as the program is gaining headway.
The high-powered firearms turned over on Monday included the following: caliber .30 machinegun; 60-mm mortar; Ultimax assault rifles; M-16 Armalite rifles; M-14 rifles; M-79 grenade launchers; and, caliber .50 Barret sniper rifle.
“We have to continue this turning over of loose firearms. We should not wait for the full force of the law to get us. Let us surrender the unlicensed firearms. This will be good for all of us. Let us think on how to live peacefully,” Ampatuan said during the program even as he lauded those who heeded the calls to yield their “prized possessions.”
Owning a gun is a common practice in Moro populated areas to protect the family from enemies and lawless elements.
Ampatuan encouraged every residents of this town who still possess unlicensed firearms to “use your brains, return your loose firearms and we will give you coconut seedlings.”
Carreon also lauded the resident’s response to the “Balik Baril program” of the local government.
“You made the right decision, those who returned their firearms are the law abiding citizens. You may possess it but you cannot bring it out. During Martial Law, licenses to carry guns are suspended. Studies show that the root cause of violence in this area is because of so much loose firearms,” Carreon said.
Carreon explained that the campaign against loose firearms in this province is a two-pronged approach--convince to surrender and law enforcement.
“At the end of the day, we still reach out to all the armed groups here. The effort to convince them to peacefully surrender is still there. However, we have to enforce the law. There is an effort against terrorism and we have to do it,” Carreon said.
“For the meantime, we still have to do this gathering of loose firearms or any other peaceful means in order to keep the peace in the area. But if there is a need to fight, then we have to operate as such,” Carreon added.
More than 1,000 loose firearms have been collected by the Army’s 6th Infantry Division (ID) through the Task Force Central’s and localized “Balik Baril Program” of the local government units.
In a recent provincial peace and order council meeting here, Maj. Gen. Arnel Dela Vega, 6th ID chief, has urged all local chief executives to help them in the campaign against loose firearms.
“Let us remember that Martial Law is in effect and the Army will strictly enforce it especially if people will insist on possessing and carrying unauthorized guns. Let us emulate what the other mayors have done,” Dela Vega told local officials, referring to other town mayors who earlier turnedover unlicensed guns.