Manila: Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has vowed to look into the reported use by Maute of government issued firearms and ammunition as government and civilian death toll in the fighting mounts.
“After this war, we will start looking at where these guns and ammunitions (used by the Maute) came from. Some of the ammunition cartons had markings that it came from the Government arsenal,” Duterte said during a recent visit to Camp Quintin Merecido in Davao City’s Buhangin District.
Television footages and videos had shown Maute militants using firearms similar to that used by government forces.
Police Chief Supt. Val De Leon of the national police Firearms and Explosives Office in a recent televised interview said they have strong suspicions that certain legitimately licensed guns and ammunition businesses in Marawi City have connections with, not necessarily the Maute, but the Abu Sayyaf.
De Leon said they are investigating a gun store in Marawi City, which is suspected to be owned and operated through a front business, by Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon.
Maute has strong links with the Abu Sayyaf and in one recent video suspected to have been taken before the Lanao-based terror group launched its attack in Marawi City, Hapilon was seen meeting with Maute brothers Omarkhayam and Abdullah.
“We have noted that some of the firearms recovered from the hands of the Maute have defaced serial numbers making them difficult to trace,” De Leon said.
Last June 23, police intelligence agents intercepted a shipment of ammunition for long firearms in Cagayan de Oro.
Reports said that a total 6,000 rounds of 5.56mm ammunition for M16 and M4 assault rifles were seized together with 2,000 pieces of .30 calibre bullets.
The cartons containing the bullets had markings of the Government arsenal as well as Armscor, a privately owned firearms and ammunition producer.
Officials from Armscor said they are looking into the lot numbers in the seized ammunition cartons to determine where they came from.
Based on a report by the Cagayan De Oro edition of the daily SunStar, the boxes of ammunition were declared as electrical wirings and had arrived in Cagayan de Oro as early as April.
Prior to the incident in Marawi City, President Rodrigo Duterte had tightened rules on the shipment of ammunition for high powered firearms in a bid to prevent such bullets from being used against government forces.
Presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella said that as of July 1, a total 82 government soldiers and policemen have been killed in the fighting in Marawi City since May 23 while 39 civilians also died. A total of 317 Maute terrorists were eliminated.
Duterte said the government “is winning the war (against terror) … A few more days and we will prevail in Marawi,” he said.