By Ali Macabalang
COTABATO CITY – Twenty-two high powered firearms were surrendered by Shariff Sayedona Mustapha Mayor Zandria Sinsuat-Ampatuan, wife of former provincial governor Sajid Ampatuan, to the military during a municipal peace and order council (MPOC) meeting last April 10.
This was disclosed by Lt. Col. Gerry Besana, spokesperson of the Sixth Infantry Division-left Task Force Central.
Besana said the lady mayor was accompanied by her husband, who is out on bail for his alleged involvement in the infamous Maguindanao massacre.
He said the Ampatuans yielded nine M79 grenade launchers, six Barret rifles, an RPG, a mortar, an M16-A1 rifle, a Garand rifle, one UZI, and one (1) carbine.
The turnover rite was witnessed by Brig. Gen. Diosdado C. Carreon, head of the Army’s 601st Infantry Brigade, and Lt. Col. Edgar L. Catu, commander the 40th Infantry Battalion.
Carreon and Catu were elated over the enthusiastic response of Maguindanao local government units towards the reinvigorated Balik Baril program, even as they vowed continuity in collection of loose firearms to reduce armed rifts in the province, Besana said.
Maj. Gen. Arnel Dela Vega, chief of the 6th Infantry Division and head of the Task Force Central, said all the three infantry brigades, one mechanized brigade and a Marine brigade under his operational command have been tasked to closely coordinate with LGUs in Maguindanao, Sultan Kudarat, North Cotabato and parts of Lanao del Sur in the collection of loose firearms.
Shariff Sayedona Mustapha town’s surrender of 22 guns brought to 439 the number of firearms either recovered or surrender in Maguindanao and Sultan Kudarat in less than four months, Dela Vega said.
Last February, Maguindanao’s Iranun Inter-Agency Task Force (IIATF) yielded 88 loose guns to the military in pursuit of its stride against vendetta-driven crimes and in support of the Balik Baril program.
The IIATF comprises the towns of Parang, Matanog, Barira and Buldon, the last municipality being an area known for its leadership’s fierce resistance against the military rule of the Marcos regime.
Owing to the enthusiastic response of LGUs towards the Balik Baril program, President Duterte is expected to visit Maguindanao anew this month to witness the surrender of another batch of more or less 1,000 loose guns in a single ceremony, civilian and military sources told the Bulletin.
In a statement, meanwhile, Maguindanao Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu said he was “very glad” that his campaign for “massive disarmament” of unauthorized gun holders in his province has gained foothold under the Duterte regime.
“I have always emphasized in public forums that unauthorized possession of firearm is just boosting one’s ego to dominate other person or people. Its usual consequence is commission of crime or loss of life,” Mangudadatu said.