Philippine Military is Major Source of Arms For Communist Insurgents
MANILA, Philippines (AP) _ A former Communist supply officer has confirmed what has been long suspected: Corrupt Filipino soldiers are a major source of weapons for the insurgency they are supposed to be trying to crush.
The role of corrupt soldiers in the 23-year-old Marxist insurgency has emerged as a national issue since a rebel ambush this month in which 41 government troops were killed.
Military officials said New People’s Army rebels were able to inflict heavy casualties because they used recoilless rifles and other weapons apparently purchased from corrupt soldiers.
The ambush on Feb. 15 on Mindanao island was the government’s largest single battlefield loss this year. It cast doubt on President Corazon Aquino’s claim to have ″broken the back″ of one of the world’s last Marxist insurgencies.
Western diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity, said weapons purchases from corrupt government soldiers have enabled the 15,000-strong New People’s Army to continue operations despite the collapse of Marxist states in Europe and the apparent cutoff of covert aid from North Korea.
One diplomat said some rebel commands were able to meet all their small- arms requirements through purchases on the black market, many of them from military sources.
Details of illegal purchases were provided Wednesday by Victor Pasco, a former member of the rebel’s northern Mindanao command who was arrested last month.
Pasco told reporters he had bought hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of weapons, ammunition and supplies from soldiers and other sources between 1986 and last November.
The money came from ″revolutionary taxes,″ or payoffs from loggers and multinational companies for permission to operate in rebel-influenced areas, Pasco told reporters in Cagayan de Oro, 500 miles southeast of Manila.
During a military-sanctioned interview, Pasco said he bought about $65,000 worth of weapons - including French, Israeli and Belgian rifles - from the Muslim Moro National Liberation Front.
The front, largest of three Muslim secessionist groups, was covertly armed by Libya and other radical Arab states in the 1970s but has been largely inactive in recent years.
Pasco said he also made substantial purchases from officers and supply clerks assigned to various military and police units on Mindanao, the second- largest of the 7,100 Philippine islands.
For example, Pasco said he bought six M-16 rifles from a police sergeant in November 1990 for the equivalent of $620 each. He said a sergeant from the army’s 4th Infantry Division sold him two spare barrels for M-60 machine guns.
Corrupt soldiers also sold ammunition, explosives, hand grenades, mortar shells and even combat fatigues and boots, he said. Pasco said it was easy to find suppliers.
″I would just go to bars and pass the word that I was ready to buy weapons and ammunition, and money was no object,″ he said.
Federico Gaduz, a human rights lawyer who has represented soldiers accused of illegal weapons sales, said in an interview that troops report the weapons and ammunition were lost in combat and then sell them on the black market.
No figures were available on the number of soldiers investigated or court- martialed for trading arms with the enemy. But Brig. Gen. Quintin Alcudia, commander of the army’s 4th Infantry Division, said ″there is rampant selling and trading of firearms and ammunition″ by soldiers in Mindanao and elsewhere.
Last year, he ordered the arrest of a lieutenant colonel accused of selling $31,000 worth of fuel and supplies to the rebels.