The Philippine Star – Bongbong denounces alleged cannibalizing of SAF weapons

By Marvin Sy | Philstar.com

MANILA, Philippines – Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr. yesterday denounced the reported cannibalizing of the weapons belonging to the slain Special Action Force (SAF) policemen that were surrendered by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

Marcos said the reported alteration of the seized firearms by the MILF does not help in the efforts to restore public trust in the group.

What was supposed to be a show of good faith on the part of the MILF is now put into question with the revelation that the SAF’s firearms had several missing parts, he said.

“The return of the SAF equipment was supposed to be a sign of good faith by the MILF. Returning cannibalized weapons is not a sign of good faith. In fact, it is like a slap in our faces,” Marcos said.

Sen. Grace Poe, chairperson of the Senate committee conducting the hearings on the Mamasapano incident, said she would verify the report in tomorrow’s hearing before coming out with any conclusions.

“We will verify that in our hearing on Monday. We will ask those who received weapons like Secretary Mar (Interior and Local Government Secretary Manuel Roxas II),” Poe said.

“I don’t want to speculate. I want to hear what the government panel has to say about the inventory received,” she added.

Malacañang said it would be up to the Philippine National Police to respond to the report that all of the 16 firearms surrendered by the MILF were cannibalized.

“The PNP has also not said anything about the condition, but we’ll ask them to make a response to this, since the arms were turned over to them,” deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said.

For her part, Sen. Nancy Binay urged the MILF to return the rest of the weapons, as well as the personal belongings of the slain SAF policemen at the soonest possible time to show good faith.

Binay said she also intends to find out if the reports about the government paying the MILF for the return of the firearms were true.

The allegations of the government paying the MILF for the firearms came from Fr. Eliseo Mercado, director of the German-assisted Institute for Autonomy and Governance (IAG).

In an interview with ABS-CBN, Mercado claimed the government, through the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP), bought the weapons to make it appear that the MILF is returning the firearms of the SAF troopers.

Mercado also revealed two members of the MILF helped the police locate the house of Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir, also known as Marwan, last Jan. 25.

Marwan was killed in the operation which also resulted in the killing of 44 SAF policemen in separate firefights with the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters and the MILF.

Valte said the OPAPP was disappointed over the claims made by Mercado.

“We do not have any information on the basis of Fr. Mercado for saying those statements,” Valte said.

OPAPP executive director Luisito Montalbo criticized Mercado for making the allegations.

“We don’t know where that is coming from. Certainly, there is no truth to that,” Montalbo said.

“We find it very disappointing that Father Jun, whom we’ve known for a long time and who used to directly engage our office as a peace advocate, would come out publicly with claims that are unsubstantiated and unverified,” he added. – With Jose Rodel Clapano, John Unson, Aurea Calica, Alexis Romero

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