DAVAO CITY – The Armed Forces' Eastern Mindanao Command (Eastmincom) has recovered a total of 45 AK-47 rifles from the New People’s Army (NPA) since last year.
Of the rifles, 14 were surrendered by NPA fighters who have availed themselves of the military’s Gun for Peace program, while the rest were recovered in clashes with the insurgents in Cotabato, Bukidnon, and the Caraga and Davao regions.
Earlier, the Philippine National Police (PNP) said over 1,000 AK-47 and M-16 rifles have ended up in the hands of NPA guerrillas in Mindanao, and tagged at least 19 police officers in the missing firearms.
But the PNP backtracked the other day, saying its earlier pronouncement was premature as its witness has yet to sign his statement and that there was still “no concrete evidence” against the police officers.
Lt. Gen. Ricardo Rainier Cruz III, Eastmincom commander, earlier had demanded an investigation after his men recovered several AK-47 rifles in encounters with NPA rebels.
He said they coordinated with the PNP Firearms and Explosives Division to trace the source of these AK-47 rifles.
Capt. Alberto Caber, Eastmincom spokesman, said though most of the rifles seized in the Caraga and Davao regions have tampered serial numbers, apparently to prevent authorities from determining the source of the firearms.
Meanwhile, elements of the Army’s 30th Infantry Battalion recovered four AK-47 rifles from members of an NPA extortion unit after a 20-minute firefight in Bacuag, Surigao del Norte last Sunday morning.
Also recovered from the insurgents were two grenades, four improvised explosives, 15 AK-47 magazines with ammunition, a rifle grenade, a handheld radio, six bandoliers, and six backpacks. – With Alexis Romero, Ben Serrano