AT LEAST 30 high-powered loose firearms surrendered by individual gun owners in Munai, Lanao del Norte were turned over to the military on Friday, April 6.
In a ceremony at the town hall, Mayor Casan Maquiling facilitated the turnover of guns to Major General Roseller Murillo, commanding general of the army's 1st Infantry Division (ID) and other military officials.
From the province's 22 municipalities, Munai was the first town to initiate efforts in convincing gun holders in the 26 Maranaw villages to surrender their guns.
"Sawang-sawa na kami sa gyera dito sa Munai mula nuong March 2000 until August 2008. Gusto namin ang kapayapaan at malinis at maging gunless society. Ito ay umpisa lamang at may susunod pang i turn-over mula sa mga barangays (We don't want war anymore in Munai. We wanted a peaceful, clean and gun-less municipality. This is just the start and more turnover will be conducted).
Maquiling said the firearms were voluntarily surrendered through the efforts of village officials and government soldiers under the 5th Mechanized Infantry Battalion (IB).
The town mayor said the guns being yielded by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) will be treated separately in accordance with the peace process.
Maquiling said the town is expecting a peaceful, clean and orderly village and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) polls in May 14.
Meanwhile, more civilians continue to yield loose arms in Pagalungan, Maguindanao.
A total of 75 firearms from civilians in Pagalungan and adjacent Datu Montawal municipality were turned over to the military on Wednesday, the Army’s 6ID said.
Lt. Colonel Gerry Besana, spokesperson of the 6ID Task Force Central, said the assorted high-powered firearms were turned over by Mayor Vicman Montawal of Datu Montawal town and Mayor Salik Mamasabulod of Pagalungan, both in Maguindanao, to Colonel Alfredo Rosario Jr, commander of the Army’s 602nd Infantry Brigade and Lt. Colonel Ciriaco Lomas-e Jr, chief of the Army’s 7th IB, respectively.
The surrender of guns was part of the local Balik Baril Program of the adjoining municipalities in support to the Army’s campaign against loose firearms.
Mamasabulod handed over 45 assorted firearms that included grenade launchers, sub-machine guns, assault rifles, cal. 50 Barrett sniper rifles, rifle grenades, mortar and homemade shotguns.
“We support the program of President Rodrigo Duterte. It’s better not to carry guns. You become angrier when you lose your temper. No matter how you would control yourself, somehow you could not resist once you have your gun with you,” Mamasabulod said.
Montawal turned in 30 assorted homemade and original war materials that included grenade launchers, M-14 and M-16 rifles, cal. 45 pistols and home-made grenade launchers.
“I am looking forward that there will be more loose firearms to be surrendered to show that we are in full support of the program of President Duterte,” Montawal said.
Col. Rosario Jr. also believes that more firearms will be surrendered in the future as he challenged all leaders to participate in this program of government.
“All of you barangay captains are considered as the cutting edge for you operate from the ground. You know who are those who have unlicensed firearms and those who don’t have any firearms at all,” Rosario said.
Major General Arnel dela Vega, 6th ID chief and commander of Task Force Central, has expressed his elation on the gesture of the local officials.
“We are glad that the local chief executives of Maguindanao have shown their full support on this Balik Baril program of the government. It is our thrusts to see that all communities will be in peace and harmony knowing that no more firearms will be used against any member of our community,” Dela Vega said.
Only last month, residents of Mamasapano, Pagalungan, Datu Montawal and Shariff Aguak, all of Maguindanao, also surrendered a total of 113 loose firearms. (With PNA reports)