South Cotabato to recall guns issued to barangays

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/14 October) — The provincial government of South Cotabato is planning to recall the firearms it had issued to the province’s 199 barangays after a barangay chair was arrested and charged earlier this week with “illegal possession” of the unit.

South Cotabato Gov. Daisy Avance-Fuentes said Friday they are currently coordinating with various government agencies to determine the validity of the documents of the Tomahawk 12-gauge shotguns assigned by the local government to the barangay chairs.

She said her office sent a letter to the Police Regional Office (PRO)-12 and the Department of the Interior and Local Government regarding the matter.

“We specifically inquired whether the memorandum receipts that we issued for the firearms are valid and would be honored by our authorities. If not, then we will just recall them (firearms),” she said in a radio interview.

The PRO-12’s regional anti-drug special operations task group arrested barangays chairs Juner Coronado Magbanua of Koronadal Proper and Vicente Yungco Jr. of Poblacion in Polomolok, South Cotabato in separate anti-drug raids last Monday.

The raiding team did not find any illegal drug item but allegedly recovered a grenade and several bullets at Magbanua’s house, and four firearms and assorted ammunition at Yungco’s residence.

The two officials, who were tagged by the PRO-12 as “drug protectors,” are reportedly included in the government’s list of alleged “narco-politicians.”

Yungco is the incumbent president of the Liga ng mga Barangay federation in South Cotabato and an ex-officio member of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan or provincial board.

Fuentes said two of the firearms recovered at Yungco’s house during the raid were issued by the provincial government.

She was referring to the Tomahawk shotgun issued to the barangay and a Browning 9mm pistol assigned to Yungco as a member of the provincial board.

The two firearms were included in the illegal possession of firearms and ammunition charges filed by PRO-12 against Yungco, who was released on Wednesday evening after filing a bail bond of P80,000.

“He (Yungco) presented the memorandum receipts of the two firearms during the raid but were not honored,” the governor said.

Owing to the incident, Fuentes said the other barangays chairs of Polomolok returned their issued firearms to the local government on Wednesday.

She said a number of barangay chairs in the province’s 10 towns and lone city have also signified to return the firearms.

“They were traumatized by the incident,” she said.

Fuentes said she will convene the province’s city and municipal mayors this weekend to discuss the incident and the planned recall of the firearms. (MindaNews)