By Mark Navales
COTABATO CITY — A leader of a notorious private armed group surrendered on Tuesday along with his followers to authorities in Maguindanao as the central government steps up its crackdown on criminals operating in the region.
Tamano Kamaong Mamalapat, a former commander of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), was presented along with his four colleagues to Maj. General Albert Ignatius Ferro, National Director of Philippine National Police-Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (PNP-CIDG), during his visit to Datu Saudi Ampatuan.
Mamalapat alias Datu Tammy, 49, was in the Director Intelligence watch list.
Mamalapat and his companions, Butokan Latip Dodi, Adan Dibalaten, Mamalapat, Toto Bela Bugado, and Abidin Sabang Guimat, also surrendered assorted high-powered firearms that include an M16 Armalite Rifle, one M-79, two M1 Garand rifle and one homemade 50 Caliber barrett.
The group was formerly utilized by late Mayor Samsudin Dimaukom as his private army.
During Ferro’s visit to the town, seven weapons returned by locals were also handed over by Datu Saudi Ampatuan Mayor Edris Sindatok in a ceremonial turn-over.
“I am fully committed to supporting the disbandment of private armed groups so that we will achieve peace and development,” Sindatok said.
“The program’s aim is to recover loose firearms deliberately to pave the way for a peaceful and honest upcoming election and also to encourage other private army groups’ members and lawless elements to return into the fold of law to live peacefully in the community together with their respective families,” Ferro said.
In the afternoon of Tuesday also, Mayor Bai Leah Sangki turned over 7 loose firearms collected from unauthorized gun holders in their area during the visit of Maj. General Albert Ignatius Ferro in Ampatuan Municipality, Province of Maguindanao.
CIDG RFU BAR in receiving seven (7) firearms described as follows; two (2) units of Elisco M16A1 assault rifle with defaced serial number, three (3) units of Caliber 30M1 Garand Rifle One (1) unit improvised long firearm no serial number and one (1) unit of Homemade Shotgun without serial number.
155 PRIVATE ARMED GROUPS OPERATE NATIONWIDE
Nationwide, around 155 private armed groups operate of which nearly half are highly active. The government identifies them as organized groups hired by politicians to intimidate or sow violence against opponents.
These guns-for-hire exist because of long-running gun culture in the Philippines, coupled with the presence of feuding clans in tribal areas as well as rival political dynasties trying to outdo each other.
The Philippine Constitution stipulates that private armies and other groups not recognized by a duly constituted authority shall be dismantled.
The group’s surrender was made possible thru the joint efforts of CIDG RFU BAR, PIU Maguindanao, TOG 12, Field Station- Eastern Mindanao 300 Air Intelligence Security Wing, PDEG and Datu Saudi Ampatuan MPS, and local officials in relation to the CIDG Flagship Project OPLAN PAGLALANSAG OMEGA and OPLAN SALIKOP. (Mark Navales)