RAJAH BUAYAN, Maguindanao—Twenty-five loose firearms—all but three being high-powered rifles—were turned over at the municipal gymnasium here Tuesday, as Mayor Zamzamin I. Ampatuan declared that his town is peaceful.
The “Balik Baril Program” is symbolic of the culmination of the local peace process, Ampatuan said and locals turned over a .30-caliber machine gun, a 60mm mortar, an Ultimax light machine gun, and M16, M14, M79 and Barrett rifles.
“We have to continue this turning over of loose firearms. We should not wait for the full force of the law. Let us surrender the unlicensed firearms. This will be good for all of us. Let us think on how to live peacefully,” the mayor said.
Ampatuan encouraged everyone who has unlicensed firearms to “use your coconut (brains), return your loose firearms and we will give you coconut seedlings.”
Brig. Gen. Diosdado C. Carreon, commanding officer of 601st Infantry Brigade of the Philippine Army, said those who are returning 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 added.
During the recent two-day firefight between the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters and troopers of the Army’s 6th Infantry (Kampilan) Division in the nearby marsh town of Datu Saudi Ampatuan, the BIFF lost 44 soldiers and saw 26 wounded.
“It only goes to show that the BIFF forces are diminishing. You will not expect that BIFF will turn in their firearms. Only miracle could change their minds to surrender their firearms. Either they die or surrender,” Carreon stressed.
Residents who fled the area relayed to authorities the massing of forces of the terrorist group, prompting the 601st IB under Carreon to pour in more troops. That led to more skirmishes in Barangay Kitango, Datu Saudi Ampatuan and in Barangay Malangog, Datu Unsay, Maguindanao.
“At the end of the day we still reach out to them, to all the armed groups here. The effort to convince them to peacefully turn themselves in is still there. However, we must enforce the law. There is an effort against terrorism and we have to do it,” the general added.
“For the meantime we still have to do this gathering of loose firearms or any other peaceful means to keep the peace in the area. But if there is a need to fight then we have to operate as such,” Carreon warned.
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