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Saturday, April 18, 2015

Does the MILF now outgun our armed forces?

One of the worrying elements of the Mamasapano massacre is that the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) may have started to outgun – except for heavy artillery – our armed forces, both the army and police.
Thank this gullible administration for that: Since it assumed office in 2010 it has left the MILF on its own, allowing it to have practically its own territory, mainly in central Mindanao. Even the Armed Forces enter these areas only, as they have insisted in the hearings on the Mamasapano massacre, after “appropriate coordination” with the insurgents has been made.
According to the March 2015 report on the incident by the Philippine National Police’s Board of Inquiry, while 16 Special Action Forces troopers were killed – executed – by arms fired at point-blank range, “28 others sustained fatal injuries consistent with a firefight involving high-powered firearms.”
The PNP report didn’t go into detail, but a source claimed that most had fatal wounds made by high-velocity, long-range cal. 50 bullets. That indicates they may have been fired by the dreaded sniper rifle called Barrett M107. These have an effective range of – believe it or not, 1.8 kilometers – three times the effective range of Armalite AR-15s, our military’s standard rifle.
While the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the PNP do have sniper rifles, their quantity is not known. That our military does not display them during parades seems to indicate there aren’t too many. The rifles are expensive, costing at least P750,000, and each .50 cal bullet, P500.
In contrast, the Barret seems to have become the weapon of choice – or weapon to boast about – of the MILF as these have become ubiquitous in photos taken of insurgent guerrillas, both by their own photographers or by news organizations. These have replaced the rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) launchers MILF guerillas were usually photographed carrying just five years ago.
One reason for this, which has worrying implications for our military, is that the MILF has been manufacturing Barrett rifles in its own makeshift factory.
Weapon of choice: Above, MILF sniper, probably how the insurgents picked off the SAF commandos one by one, a kilometer away. Below, dozens of Barrett rifles lined up in an MILF arms factory. Note at the upperleft corner are RPG launchers, formerly the MILF’s weapons of choice.
Weapon of choice: Above, MILF sniper, probably how the insurgents picked off the SAF commandos one by one, a kilometer away. Below, dozens of Barrett rifles lined up in an MILF arms factory. Note at the upperleft corner are RPG launchers, formerly the MILF’s weapons of choice.
Barrett factory
One of the PNP’s former top intelligence officers, now retired Col. Rodolfo Mendoza, even showed media a video of such a factory. In one part of the video, dozens of such rifles were lined up apparently for finishing touches. In the Senate hearings investigating the Mamasapano massacre, Senator Alan Peter Cayetano showed photos of such a plant, which he claimed was located in “Barangay Katol, General Salipada Pendatun, Maguindanao.”
I don’t find this surprising. In 1996 when I visited Camp Abubakr, which was then the MILF’s main headquarters, the vice chairman for military affairs at the time and now chairman Murad Ibrahim, showed me the barrel for an RPG launcher, boasting that it was made by MILF craftsmen.
Murad then explained to me that “self-reliance” was a critical part of the MILF’s long-range strategy, as they knew that arms were crucial if they ware to win their independence. He said there were limits to the arms “regularly purchased from the AFP.” “Self-reliance,” he explained, was learning to manufacture their own weapons, and reloading the cartridges.
An intelligence officer claimed that this was where the support of a foreign government – Malaysia or the State of Sabah – was crucial, since no matter how skillful the Moros were in craftsmanship, they needed modern materials, such as the alloys used in the manufacture of a Barrett rifle’s barrel. “Such kind of materials can be procured only by a government, you can’t buy them in a hardware store,” he said.
“And I don’t think the MILF manufactured those sniper scopes.”
The Barrett rifles have become so ubiquitous among MILF fighters that they call it “Barit.”
The Mamasapano battle demonstrated how vital the Barretts were in a firefight. The PNP and our armed forces haven’t discussed this as it has become demoralizing for their troops.
It was mainly because of the sniper rifles that the SAF’s 55th company was pinned down and eventually massacred, despite the commandos’ famed marksmanship.
The MILF forces simply positioned themselves as far as a kilometer from the SAF’S 55th company, and used their Barretts to pick off the commandos one by one. The SAF troopers were helpless as their Armalites didn’t have the range the Barretts did. The SAF had about four sniper rifles of a different make, I was told, but these normally run out of ammo quickly. That was why the firefight lasted the entire morning.
Hoping against hope, the SAF troops kept firing their rifles even if the MILF were out of range or if their arms lost their accuracy because of the distance. The MILF, on the other hand, simply fired at the commandos as if they were on a firing range, adjusting their Barrett sights for eventual accuracy.
When the SAF’s firing began subsiding, and then eventually stopped, that obviously meant they had run out of ammo, and the MILF approached them for the kill.
Let’s face it, the MILF already tactically outguns our military. The AFP’s remaining advantage is its artillery and armored vehicles.
But do you realize that once the Bangsamoro government has been put in place, one of its exclusive powers under the Bangsamoro Basic Law’s Article 5, Section 3, would be to operate the seaports? Do you think the MILF would resist the temptation to buy armored vehicles and artillery, of course, for the “Bangsamoro Police”?
What kind of a nation has this administration created?
Iqbal on negotiations
Aquino’s gullible negotiators should learn from their MILF counterpart, Mohagher Iqbal. Because of space constraints, I couldn’t include here his ideas on negotiations, which he wrote using the name Salah Jubair in his book Bangsamoro: A Nation under Endless Tyranny:
“If war uses the force of arms to achieve both military and political objectives, negotiation pursues the same goals through the skillful use of language and diplomacy. If war, as once aptly put, is an extension of politics, and negotiation is an aspect of war, then negotiation is war in another form.
What are its objectives when a regime agrees to resolve the conflict through the round table? Is negotiation the only form of struggle to achieve a just and lasting peace? Or is it merely used as a weapon to gain time, accumulate resources and consolidate power for the next round of battles?”
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