Gun ban is effective measure in maintaining peace in ARMM PDF Print E-mail
Monday, 09 July 2012 13:49

In the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), the gun ban remains an effective measure for change and to maintain peace and order.

Chief Supt. Mario Avenido, Philippine National Police– ARMM director, is amenable to this, considering that an enforced July 1-23 gun ban is in place for the scheduled July 9–18 general voters re-registration throughout the region by the Commission on Elections (Comelec).

The new registration of voters is intended to cleanse the existing ARMM voters’ list riddled with nearly 200,000 double registrants or so-called flying voters.

“We have so far arrested two gun ban violators from Marawi City,” Avenido said.

Early on, members of the Army’s 51st Infantry Battalion seized an M-14 rifle from an armed civilian involved in a family feud in Barangay Porug, Pualas, Lanao del Sur.

“You see, imposing a total gun ban in ARMM ensures that voters would come out and register,” he said.

Moreover, he noted that the gun ban order prevents armed groups from intimidating and harassing ARMM constituents during political exercises.

The ARMM covers the cities of Marawi and Lamitan, and also the provinces of Maguindanao, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, Lanao del Sur and Basilan.

Comelec Resolution No. 9479, promulgated on June 27, provides that the gun ban in connection with the new voters’ listing in the ARMM is expanded to the non-ARMM areas but with a considerable size of Muslim populace that include the cities of Cotabato, Zamboanga and Isabela and the provinces of Sultan Kudarat, Zamboanga del Sur, Lanao del Norte and North Cotabato.

Based on the 2010 PNP loose firearms assessment nationwide, the ARMM placed second to the National Capital Region (NCR) with loose firearms estimated at 114,189.

In Maguindanao alone, there is an estimated 12,000 loose firearms considering that it is the home base of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), where its main enclave, Camp Darapanan, is situated in Barangay Simuay, Sultan Kudarat town.

The same PNP report said that in the ARMM, there are at least 5,179 assorted firearms from threat groups and another 1,440 from criminal elements.
Despite this, a report from the Army’s Sixth Infantry Division (6ID) in Maguindanao reported a “zero” encounter between military and MILF forces since January this year.

“In other provinces of the ARMM, a dwindling trend on encounters had also been observed in 2011. It just shows that the peace process is holding,” Maj. Gen. Rey Ardo, the Army’s 6ID chief, said.

A state of emergency remains in place in Maguindanao since two years ago following the gruesome November 2009 Maguindanao massacre that killed 57 people, including several relatives of incumbent Gov. Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu and 33 local journalists.

It was described as the worst pre-election incident so far in Philippine politics.

On that ill-fated day, a seven-vehicle convoy of Mangudadatu’s wife, Bai Genalyn, was on its way to Shariff Aguak town to file the certificate of candidacy of her husband for provincial governor in connection with the May 2010 national and local polls when blocked and slaughtered at a secluded area in adjacent Barangay Salman, Ampatuan town.

Principal suspects in the carnage involved members of the influential Ampatuan clan, Mangudadatu’s bitter political rival, and their so-called private army
composed of more than 100-armed supporters that included police and militia personnel.

Despite the detention of Ampatuan clan members and some 97 members of their so-called private army, over a hundred massacre suspects remain in hiding at the jungles of Maguindanao.

“The imposed gun ban, in a way, resulted to the successive arrest of suspects to the Maguindanao massacre since most of them were apprehended without firearms,” Avenido said.

Following his taking over the ARMM leadership in December 2011, Acting Gov. Mujiv Hataman made the campaign against loose firearms one of his main priorities.