Espina to MILF: Surrender Usman, SAF killers too

Philippine National Police officer-in-charge Deputy Director General Leonardo Espina airs his sentiments on the bloody Mamasapano clash before the House of Representatives ad hoc committee on the Bangsamoro Basic Law on Wednesday, February 4. Espina called on the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters to surrender the firearms taken from the 44 fallen policemen. (MNS photo)

Philippine National Police officer-in-charge Deputy Director General Leonardo Espina airs his sentiments on the bloody Mamasapano clash before the House of Representatives ad hoc committee on the Bangsamoro Basic Law on Wednesday, February 4. Espina called on the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters to surrender the firearms taken from the 44 fallen policemen. (MNS photo)

MANILA (Mabuhay) – The Philippine National Police on Thursday welcomed the return of some of the weapons of Special Action Force commandos during the January 25 Mamasapano raid.

During the formal turnover of the SAF weapons to the PNP at Camp Aguinaldo, PNP officer-in-charge Deputy Director General Leonardo Espina said the return of the 16 weapons is a welcome development.

He said it was enough to show that the MILF is truly committed to the peace process.

“This is certainly a welcome development, this is a positive beginning,” Espina said.

Espina said the MILF must also return the remaining firearms supposedly still in the hands of the MILF, and help in capturing Filipino terrorist Abdul Basit Usman, who escaped during the Mamasapano raid.

Espina also called on the MILF to surrender its fighters who were responsible for the death of the 44 SAF men.

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief of staff General Gregorio Pio Catapang Jr. also echoed Espina and Malacañang’s demands to the MILF.

“We view this gesture as a sign that our brothers in the MILF want to sustain the gains of peace and progress that we have worked through the years. However, we are urging our MILF brothers to return all the firearms and personal belongings that were taken from our SAF brothers during the encounter,” Catapang said.

Interior Secretary Manuel “Mar” Roxas II, meanwhile, said the MILF should take this incident as an opportunity to show other stakeholders that it has full control over its troops.

Sa dulo nitong peace process, magkakaroon ng plebiscite at halalan. Magandang pagkakaton ito upang maipakita [ng MILF] ang uri ng pamamahala na siyang gaganapin sa katapusan ng peace process na ito,” Roxas said.

Roxas added that the turnover of the rest of the missing firearms will be a complicated task, as some of these are now in the hands of entities other than the MILF, such as the renegade Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), private armed groups, and possibly, even civilians.

Kaya hinihingi natin ang general na tulong ng MILF na para sa pag-recover ‘di lang ng armas, pati na rin personal effects ng mga namatay,” he said.

Roxas said it is essential for these firearms be brought back to the government, as these obviously pose threat to the security of innocent people.

“They stay as firearms, so the danger is quite obvious that these firearms can be used against government forces, civilians, or other people.”

FIREARMS INSPECTION

Espina said a technical team from PNP-SAF will inspect the 16 pieces of firearms surrendered on Wednesday at Camp Siongco in Datu Odin Sinsuat, Maguindanao.

This, amid allegations that some of the parts of the returned weapons are still missing or no longer the original ones.

We will double check ang mga serial numbers, completeness of parts. Tulad ng isang iyon oh, bakit kalahati iyon?” Espina said, pointing to one of the returned weapons.

The missing weapons listed in the PNP inventory include 36 rifles, 4 crew-served weapons, 10 grenade launchers, one recoiless rifle, and 11 handguns, and various ordnance, ammunition and magazines.

Some of the missing equipment, on the other hand, include 6 sound suppressors, a forward looking infrared, 47 night vision goggles, 37 tactical helmets, 79 ceramic plates, 4 tactical vests, 15 gas masks with canister, 4 protective glasses, 4 binoculars, and other communication equipment.

Espina said the PNP’s Board of Inquiry will be the one to make recommendations whether the returned firearms can be used as pieces of evidence against those responsible for the killing.

“We are turning these over to the BOI. It’s up to their disposition on what these firearms could be. We’ll just wait for the BOI findings.

AFP, PNP rift

Meanwhile, Espina said he and AFP chief of staff Gregorio Catapang still maintain a strong working relationship despite news of a rift between the AFP and PNP.

“Ever since we were cadets, I and Catapang have always been together. Until now, after retirement we will always be together,” Espina said.

Sacked PNP-SAF commander Getulio Napeñas earlier said the military failed to send timely reinforcements to the besieged SAF troops, who carried out the operation to neutralize Marwan and Usman using the time on target principle.

Napeñas also justified informing the military only on the day of the raid, saying past attempts to arrest Marwan in coordination with the AFP failed because of a supposed leak of information.

The AFP and MILF, for their part, blamed the lack of sufficient coordination for the bungled police raid. The MILF also argued that its men acted on self-defense after seeing SAF men in their area.

The Mamasapano clash has threatened to derail the peace process and the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law, which aims to establish a new Bangsamoro autonomous region. (MNS)

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