Philippines Announces Crackdown on Online Sales of Unlicensed Firearms

Mark Navales and Dennis Jay Santos
Cotabato and Davao, Philippines
2021-09-13
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Philippines Announces Crackdown on Online Sales of Unlicensed Firearms A Philippine official checks one of the dozens of firearms turned over by former Muslim rebels as part of a decommissioning process in Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao province, July 9, 2019.
Mark Navales/BenarNews

Philippine National Police online detectives have been ordered to crack down on the alleged sale and distribution of unlicensed firearms over the internet ahead of next years general election, the countrys top cop announced Monday.

An initial police investigation revealed that thousands of disassembled firearm parts and ammunition recovered recently from a warehouse in Bulacan, north of Manila, were “reportedly being reassembled and sold to private armed groups via online platforms,” police chief Gen. Guillermo Eleazar told reporters in a virtual news conference.

He said he has asked the police anti-cybercrime group to trace the source of such weapons and find those involved in the sales.

“In our aggressive campaign against loose firearms as part of the early security preparations for the 2022 elections, we are not discounting the possibility that some gun-running syndicates are using the online platforms for their illegal activities,” Eleazar said.

“Because of this, I have asked our intelligence group and the anti-cybercrime group to boost information gathering and monitor this modus,” he said. 

Some of the disassembled parts were from weapons that were not properly decommissioned and ended up in the black market, Eleazar said, adding part of the investigation will be to determine how the items went missing from the police and military inventory.  

Eleazar said military leaders assured police of cooperation in the investigation, noting many of the parts confiscated in the Bulacan warehouse were from .50-caliber and M16 rifles.

2022 election

The Philippines will hold a general election next year to choose a successor for President Rodrigo Duterte, to fill 12 of the 24 seats in the Senate, all 316 House seats and thousands of officials from provincial governors to town mayors and councilors. 

Previous elections have been fraught with violence as some politicians hired “private armed groups” to intimidate rivals.

In 2019, 23 people were killed and 50 injured during mid-term polls and as many as 50 people died in poll-related violence during the 2016 presidential election, according to statistics from the national police.

The interior department previously identified about 150 private armies, many of them operating in remote areas, including in the Muslim autonomous region in the countrys south.

These guns-for-hire exist because of a long-running gun culture in the Philippines, coupled with the presence of feuding clans in tribal areas along with rival political dynasties trying to outdo each other, according to interior department officials.

Criminal Investigation and Detention Group chief Maj. Gen. Albert Ignatius Ferro on Monday announced the arrest of three suspects last week along with the seizure of firearms, ammunition and crystal methamphetamine, the state-run Philippine News Agency reported.

He said the suspects were members of a group involved in gunrunning and guns-for-hire activities while praising officers for the operation, according to PNA.

“Rest assured that we will be in the frontline and ever ready to step further in our battle against criminality,” he said.

On Sunday, police in the southern Philippines seized more than 650 rounds of 7.62 mm ammunition from a suspected gunrunner in Parang, Maguindanao province. The seized ammunition could have been used in M14 assault rifles and M60 machine guns.

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