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Military is source of illegal weapons in South – Murad Ebrahim

FORMER REBEL CHIEFTAIN Murad Ebrahim, now Chief Minister of the Muslim autonomous region, has claimed that the main source of illegal weapons and ammunition in the volatile region of Mindanao is the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

Speaking at a television news program, Ebrahim, who had waged decades of deadly secessionist campaign in the South as head of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), pointed to the military arsenal as the source of the weapons.

Ebrahim said illegal weapons in Mindanao bear the markings of the Department of National Defense (DND). “Most of the firearms are still coming from the armory of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. I think that’s the main source because now we do not see any firearms or weapons coming (from) outside (of the Philippines). Maybe before, during the early (19)70s, there were firearm purchases outside of the country, but today it is no longer happening,” Ebrahim said, adding, “it is up to the military to be strict in the control of the firearms.”

It was not the first time that the MILF made such accusation.

In July 2003, rebel spokesman Eid Kabalu admitted that his group had been buying weapons from government soldiers. “There’s no direct links between the MILF and the AFP. We do buy firearms and ammunition, not necessarily from the AFP directly. We understand through our simple inquiry that these firearms come from the (government) arsenal,” he said.

Kabalu’s admission came after hundreds of renegade soldiers staged a coup and captured the posh Oakwood Premier apartment building and Glorietta Mall in the country’s business district of Makati City and they accused the Arroyo administration of illegally selling weapons to the MILF, as well as to the Islamic extremist Abu Sayyaf group and communist rebels.

The putschists also accused defense officials of masterminding terrorist bombings in Mindanao and blamed it on the MILF and other militant groups to prolong their rebellion and get more military and financial aid from Washington. They demanded the resignation of President Gloria Arroyo and other senior officials for alleged corruption in the military before peacefully surrendering after long negotiations.

Both the AFP and DND have denied Ebrahim’s allegations, but admitted it had lost weapons and ammunition during battles.

“Nakarating po sa aming kaalaman ang statement ni Ginoong Murad. At alam naman po namin na may mga kaso ng pagkawala ng mga baril at bala, sa mga nangyaring bakbakan at sa mga ambush na nangyari, na nagdaan. Pero ito naman po ay naka-record sa atin. Pero kung mayroon po tayong ganiyang impormasyon at makakakuha pa po tayo ng iba pang detalye buhat kay Chairman Murad, ay magsasagawa po tayo ng karampatang inventory at imbestigasyon,” said military spokesman Brigadier General Edgard Arevalo.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said there were no reports of losses or pilferages of firearms in military armories.“As far as I know we have no leakage in the AFP. No report of losses or pilferages of firearms in AFP armoires or supply rooms,” he said and also echoing Arevalo’s statement that weapons had been lost in fighting with rebel forces in Mindanao.

“Quite a number of firearms were lost by soldiers in encounters with lawless elements and agaw-armas. Over the years, a substantial number of firearms were lost in this manner,” Lorenzana said.

Director Aresenio Andolong, chief of the DND Public Affairs Service, has assured the public that they will run after anyone from the defense establishment involved in gunrunning activities. “We take cognizance of Chief Minister Al-Hajj Murad Ebrahim’s comment. We assure the public that anyone from the defense establishment who is found guilty of gunrunning or pilferage of firearms and munitions will be dealt with severely and sanctioned accordingly.The DND is strongly against the proliferation of loose firearms and will not tolerate any individuals or groups that violate Philippine gun laws,” he said.

But just recently, security forces intercepted some 250 soldiers of Nur Misuari, chieftain of the Moro National Liberation Front led by Ustadz Jamaluddin Abdullah, on their to a peace rally in Maguindanao’s Buluan town and confiscated 37 automatic weapons and three .45-caliber pistols from them.

Police and military freed Abdullah’s group without filing criminal charges against those who were caught carrying automatic weapons.

Major General Diosdado Carreon, the division commander, said MNLF members are prohibited to carry weapons. “MNLF members can converge for dialogues and other peaceful activities as long as they are not in uniform and under arms as this is prohibited in the security agreements indicated in the September 2, 1996 Government of the Philippines-MNLF final peace agreement,” he said.

There was no immediate statement from Misuari. And Carreon did not say why no charges were filed against Abdulla’s group for carrying illegal weapons, especially at a time while the whole of the southern Philippines are under martial law. (Mindanao Examiner)


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