Tuesday, April 27, 2010

24 High-powered Firearms Surrendered by Masbate Politician

SND Norberto Gonzales receives the high-powered firearms presented by Masbate Representative Antonio Kho during the Regional Peace and Order Council meeting held in Masbate City today (Apr 27). Also in photo are STF Masbate Commander Col Alvin Tiam Watt, CSAFP General Delfin Bangit, SOLCOM Chief LTGEN Roland Detabali, Gov Elisa Kho (partly hidden), Commissioner Godina Zenarosa and retired LTGen Edilberto Adan. (Photo by Major Harold Cabunoc)

CAMP ELIAS ANGELES, Pili, Camarines Sur – Twenty-four assorted firearms which were used during the past elections were surrendered by the Masbate governor during a turn-over ceremony held in STF Masbate headquarters at about 1:30pm today, a military officer said.

Major Harold M Cabunoc, Division Spokesperson said that 24 firearms were turned over by Masbate Governor Elisa Kho to DND Secretary Norberto Gonzales during the joint peace and order council meeting held here.

“Included in the surrendered firearms were two M60 General Purpose Machine Guns. In addition, the STF Masbate also received 12 M16 Rifles, one 40mm M203 Grenade Launcher, one M1 Garand, three 9mm KG9 Submachineguns and 5 Caliber .45 M1911A1 Pistols,” said Cabunoc.

The turn-over ceremony was attended by senior military and police officials as well as prominent political figures in the province.

The surrendered firearms were believed to be used by Kho’s armed supporters during the previous elections. None of the users of the said firearms showed up to turn themselves in.

Major General Ruperto Pabustan, Commander of the 9th Infantry Division said that the surrender is not an assurance that there will be no more atrocities here.

“None among the users of the firearms showed up to voluntarily surrender. Likewise, the armed groups identified with the opposing political candidates have not yet laid down their weapons,” said Pabustan.

“This surrender of firearms shows Gov Kho’s sincerity in supporting the government’s drive to stop the election-related violent incidents (ERVIs) which Masbate is widely known for,” Pabustan added.

LtGen Roland Detabali is hopeful that other politicians in the province will follow the lead of Kho. “I expect that more firearms will be surrendered from various political camps very soon,” he said.

Masbate is known to have at least 11 armed groups which are believed used by politicians. Four of these armed groups has been categorized by government authorities in the province as ‘partisan armed groups’ (PAGs), a term referring to armed goons which are used for elections.

In 2004, Masbate took prominence when it logged 22 election-related violent incidents. The figure was down to 18 ERVIs during the 2007 midterm elections.

As of today, 8 ERVIs were recorded by the Special Task Force Masbate. The latest incident was the shooting of a political supporter of Kho by the police escort of Placer Mayor Judd Lanete.

The Special Task Force Masbate is composed of two components coming from the AFP and the PNP. The military component is headed by Colonel Alvin Tiam Watt while the PNP counterpart is headed by PSSupt Victor Deona.

On March 16 2010, a 250-man strong 85th Infantry Battalion composed of former UN peacekeepers was deployed in Masbate to help sustain its efforts in keeping the peace and help dismantle the various ‘partisan armed groups’.

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