Thursday, 29 April 2010

Masbate governor gives up arms hoard

Florante S. Solmerin
Manila Standard

Masbate Governor Elisa Kho on Tuesday surrendered 24 assorted firearms to Defense Secretary Norberto Gonzales in a ceremony witnessed by the peace and order council members in her province.

Major Harold Cabunoc, spokesman of the Army’s 9th Infantry Division, said the assault weapons include two M60 machine guns, 12 M16 rifles, one 40mm M203 grenade launcher, one M1 Garand rifle, three 9mm sub-machineguns and 5 caliber .45 pistols.

Cabunoc said the firearms were believed to have been used by Kho’s supporters during the 2007 elections. He did not say how the firearms ended up with Kho and why not one of the gun owners came forward to surrender.

But Kho’s gesture is not an assurance that there will be no more atrocities here, said Major General Ruperto Pabustan, commander of the 9th ID. “The armed groups identified with the opposing political candidates have not yet laid down their weapons,” said Pabustan.

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

Southern Luzon Command (chief Lt. Gen. Roland Detabali said he was hopeful that other politicians in the province will follow the lead of Kho, who is seeking re-election.

At least 11 armed groups operate in Masbate, which logged 18 election-related violent incidents in the 2007 elections.

Last March 16, a 250-man military group composed of former United Nations peacekeepers was deployed in Masbate to help dismantle the private armies.

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