MANILA, Philippines—An assortment of weapons, including 20 M4 carbines, two grenade launchers, and an FN Minimi machine gun were formally turned over by representatives of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front to the government Wednesday morning.
Also returned were a cell phone and other miscellaneous items.
The firearms belonged to the 44 slain members of the PNP Special Action Force who were k****d last January 25 in Mamasapano, Maguindanao by the combined forces of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and its splinter group the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters.
The turnover ceremonies, which was conducted at Camp Brig. Gen. Gonzalo Siongco in Datu Odin Sinsuat, Maguindanao, was witnessed by high-ranking representatives from both sides. Armed Forces of the Philippines chief of staff General Gregorio Pio Catapang was among those who attended.
Members of the Coordinating Committee on Cessation of Hostilities and the International Monitoring Team picked up the first batch of weapons from the group’s 105th Base Command in the remote village of Madia in Datu Saudi Ampatuan town.
The second batch of weapons was handed over prior to the turnover ceremonies.
The government’s chief negotiator Miriam Coronel-Ferrer lauded the rebel group for returning the weapons, saying it was a good start to show their sincerity to the peace process.
At the same time, she also appealed from civilians and rebel members who were involved in the clash to return weapons or items they may have picked up from the battlefield.
Ferrer’s counterpart Mohagher Iqbal said the gesture showed the rebel group was prepared to walk the extra mile if it would mean peace.
Iqbal had earlier vowed in a letter to the Senate that the group will return any firearms it retrieved as a show of goodwill.
Rebel chief Von Al Haq concurred, saying the return of the guns was a confidence-building gesture between the government and the rebels.