By Martin Sadongdong
About 20 high-powered firearms and war materials were voluntarily surrendered by local officials and residents of Pata, Sulu to the Joint Task Force (JTF) Sulu in what was seen as the result of the government troops’ “relentless campaign against loose firearms,” the military said today.
Brig. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, JTF Sulu commander, said municipal and local officials, and residents turned over four M16 rifles; an M653; a bar for caliber .30; 13 Garand rifles; a Sig 7.62; rounds and magazines of various calibers at the detachment of the 31st Marine Company in Barangay Simbangon, Pata, Sulu Saturday morning.
“This was a result of the relentless efforts of our forces in the campaign against loose firearms to pave the way for peace and progress in the province of Sulu,” Sobejana said.
It can be recalled that on February 2, Pata Island Mayor Anton Burahan and some barangay officials voluntarily surrendered a cache of weapons and ammunition, consisting of three 81MM Mortar tubes, a 90 RR crew-served weapon, a barrel of caliber .50 MG, four M16 rifles, three M14 rifles, five Garand rifles, an M79 grenade launcher and a hundred rounds of ammunition.
The surrender came following a successful combat operation launched by the Philippine Fleet-Marine Ready Force Sulu that led to the discovery of an arms cache in Barangay Pisak Pisak, Pata Island on January 31.
“We are intensifying our intelligence and combat operations to monitor and gather loose firearms in line with the President’s directive to immediately confiscate all unlicensed firearms including that of soldiers and policemen,” Lt. Gen. Carlito G. Galvez Jr., commander of the Western Mindanao Command, said.
“As we sustain our momentum, we encourage all those who have a stake in the future of Sulu to take steps against terrorism and support our campaign to remove all tools and implements for violent extremism,” he added.
In a span of 10 days, the military said 48 firearms were already seized from Pata island, Sulu.
Galvez said they are looking for more positive results “under the prudent and effective implementation” of martial law in the Western Mindanao.
“I would like the people to know that their armed forces through WestMinCom is dead serious in removing all the vehicles of violence all over the region. I therefore enjoin everybody to join us in making Sulu and other areas safe for all of us,” he said.