KUTA SANG-AN, Labangan, Zamboanga del Sur – Residents of Piagapo, Lanao del Sur surrendered a total of 43 high and low powered loose firearms in a turnover ceremony held at Piagapo Town Hall yesterday, March 16, 2:30pm. Of the 43 units surrendered, 41 are high-powered while 2 are low-powered firearms. The surrendered units include Barrett Cal .50, BAR, RPG 7, M79, Minimi 5.56 (SAW), Ultimax 5.56mm SAW, M-16 rifles, M-14 rifles, M653 rifles, M4 rifle, Magpul rifle, M2 Carbine, Tompson 9mm, Uzi 9mm, cal .45 pistol and KJ 9mm.
This is the second batch of firearms surrendered by the civilian residents of Piagapo. The first batch, mostly short arms, happened last year October 17, 2017.
This endeavor was made possible through the continuous collaboration of the 51st Infantry Battalion and the local chief executives and brgy officials of Piagapo in the implementation of martial law and the campaign against loose firearms.
Piagapo Mayor Ali L Sumandar during the ceremony expressed his commitment and support to the security sector in the attainment of a lasting peace in his municipilty much known on rebellion and syndicates. In his speech, he underscores 3 words: Unity, Peace, and Progress. “Peace is possible if there is unity, and development follows if there is peace.”
“I want this town a role model of peace in Lanao del Sur. I’m sure we can do this with the help of the people of Piagapo. I’m calling other government institutions and agencies to help us in this campaign for peace primarily by providing livelihood opportunities to my constituents”, Mayor Sumandar said.
It can be recalled that the Daesh-inspired group occupied Piagapo before the Marawi rebellion erupted.
On April 21, 2017, clashes between the military and the local terrorist Maute group transpired at Sitio Pagalungan, Brgy Gacap of Piagapo. The said encounter lasted for 3 days which resulted to the death of thirty six (36) members of the Maute group, seizure and occupation of enemy’s main camp with fortified bunkers, fighting positions, and running trenches. The government forces sustained 3 wounded in action (WIA) caused by shrapnel and bullet wound.
A month after, the Marawi rebellion started which resulted to thousands of casualties, displacements of civilians, and the total destruction of the City’s main business district area. The battle which lasted for five months also prompted President Rodrigo Duterte to declare martial law in Mindanao for 60 days, and was later extended until the end of the year and the whole of 2018.
On Dec 2017, 3 civilian vendors from Misamis Oriental selling furniture were killed in Piagapo. Their dead body were found on Dec 6, 2017 at the border of Piagapo and Balindong towns of Lanao del Sur.
To help change the image of the town, the municipal peace and order council was convened and the different stakeholders involved agreed to end the bloody history of Piagapo and start building peace and development by bringing the government services closer to the people.
LTC GREMEL B BRUAL INF (GSC) PA, Commanding Officer of the 51st Infantry Battalion covering the town of Piagapo in his area of responsibility, also promised to do their share in attaining Mayor Sumandar’s vision to change the rebellious image of Piagapo as exemplified in the ceremony’s theme: “Surrendering Loose Firearms: A Key Step Towards Meaningful and Lasting Peace”.
The 1st ID Commander, Maj Gen Roseller G Murillo AFP, in his speech said: “I would like to express my sincere appreciation to the people of Piagapo for their genuine gesture in giving up their firearms. This would be a continuous campaign and our soldiers will never stop convincing the civilians to surrender their loose firearms.”
“As we continue with our campaign in getting rid of the loose firearms, we are expecting several other armaments to be surrendered not only here in Piagapo but also in other towns of Lanao Provinces. Rest assured that the military will remain as the “steadfast protector” of the people. Likewise, the AFP will remain professional as it carries out its mandate in the implementation of martial law”, Murillo added.