MILF rebels demand return of handgun seized by police in Maguindanao

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PARANG, Maguindanao (MindaNews/24 April) – About 50 guerrillas of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) led by Datu Solaiman Dimatuntay arrived at the local police station on Monday morning to demand the return of a handgun that was seized Sunday from their leader.

The rebels, brandishing high-powered firearms, came on board a multicab and about 10 motorcycles and looked for Chief Inspector Erwin Tabora, the town police chief.

Townsfolk watch as MILF guerrillas arrive at the police station in Parang, Maguindanao on Monday, 24 April 2017. Photo courtesy of Parang Police Office

Only two policemen were on duty as Tabora and the rest of his subordinates were attending the burial of a colleague.

Upon arriving, the rebels reportedly fired their guns in the air, and Dimatuntay told the two policemen to return his caliber .45 pistol.

Dimatuntay was arrested Sunday at a police checkpoint manned by the Regional Public Safety Company in a checkpoint. He was later released but police seized his firearm.

“He was arrested for possession of unlicensed gun on Sunday. Now, he wanted to take it back…it is not possible because the case has been filed in court and it is up for the court to release it or not,” Tabora said.

Stores and windows of houses closed and people ran in different directions and sought cover as the incident unfolded.

“We were afraid, we thought our town was under attack,” said a sidewalk vendor who witnessed the coming of armed men and the firing of guns in succession.

Von Al Haq, MILF vice chair for military affairs, admitted the armed men were MILF members. “We are conducting internal investigation,” he said.

Police are preparing to file a complaint before the government and MILF ceasefire committee against the attackers.

“Yes we are filing complaints because what they did has alarmed the people. It will affect the peace process,” Tabora said.

“Some MILF middle level leaders do not understand the process, as if in their mind, the law of the jungle still applies,” he added.

He said the MILF members who showed up at the police station are all residents of Parang and Barira.

The local police had coordinated with the GPH-MILF coordinating committee on the cessation of hostilities to prevent the situation from getting out of hand.

As of Monday evening, tension remained high in the poblacion following reports that Dimatuntay’s group will again demand the return of his firearm. (Ferdinandh B. Cabrera/MindaNews)

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