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Philippine Daily Inquirer August 08, 2003

Mutineers Used Hi-Tech Guns Given By US

By TJ Burgonio

THE MILITARY officers who staged a mutiny on July 27 were armed with high-powered firearms provided by the US government during an antiterror training in 2001, officials said yesterday.

The firearms seized from the rebels after the short-lived mutiny included Robar and Barrett sniper rifles, according to Lt. Col. Daniel Lucero, public information officer of the Armed Forces.

The US military issued the Robar sniper rifles to members of the Light Reaction Company (LRC) while training them in antiterrorism at Fort Magsaysay, Nueva Ecija, in the second quarter of 2001, he said.

The LRC, composed of 100 highly trained personnel, is often deployed with ground troops in special operations like tracking down the Abu Sayyaf bandits in the jungles of Basilan, Sulu and Zamboanga. Citing a military report, Lucero said that two days before the mutiny, 11 members of a sniper class, including two officers, slipped out of their training area in Fort Magsaysay, bringing with them three Robar sniper rifles and four Barrett rifles.

He declined to say if the snipers joined the mutineers at Oakwood.

The .50 cal. scoped Barrett sniper rifles (M82A1A) were purchased by the Marines from the United States five years ago, according to Maj. Gen. Emmanuel Teodosio, commandant of the Philippine Marines.

The 57-inch-long, 32.5-pound rifle has a maximum effective range (on equipment-sized targets) of 1,800 meters. It is equipped with bipod, muzzle brake, carrying handle, metallic sights and 10-round box magazine.

$ 6,000 each

The Barrett rifle is designed to provide commanders the option of employing snipers with an anti-materiel weapon to augment the anti-personnel M40A1 7.62mm weapon, according to documents accessed from globalsecurity.org.

A unit replacement costs $ 6,000.

"There were no equipment used other than the organic equipment," Teodosio said in a phone interview, referring to the Barrett rifles. "All have been accounted for."

By official accounts, 98 Marines, including 22 officers, out of the 326 soldiers took part in the failed power grab.

Another flashy firearm, Steyr AUG or its modified version, F88, was seen being lugged by one of the mutiny leaders, Army Scout Ranger Capt. Milo Maestrecampo, while berating the unruly media at Oakwood.

The F88, the main assault rifle of the Australian Forces, can fire at least 650 rounds per minute. It weighs 3.8 kg and is 790-mm long.

"Bull-pup configured, the F88 can be equipped with a variety of options such as bayonets, night shifts, laser sights, and even a left-hand fit kit. Though seen as less robust when compared to other rifles, the F88 is a capable performer in the assault rifle market," according to documents accessed from the Internet.

A unit is priced at $ 1,250.

Col. Danilo Lim, commander of the 1st Scout Rangers Regiment based in San Miguel, Bulacan, said that Steyr rifles were issued to some Scout Ranger units as well as other units of the Army.

"Apparently, some Rangers were more comfortable with Steyr rifles," he said in a phone interview.

Assault rifles

Other firearms used by the rebels were M-16A assault rifles, shotguns, grenade launchers, and M60 machine guns, which have a maximum range of 2.3 miles and can fire 100 rounds per minute (rapid).

An M60 machine gun and its modified version, M60E3, cost at least $ 6,000.

Except for the signature-brand backpacks (black and gray), and the hand-held radios and other communication gadgets, all the equipment seized from the rebels came from their mother units, according to officials.

"The sophisticated sniper rifles came from the Special Forces Command but the communication equipment were not standard military issue," Lt. Gen. Rodolfo Garcia, AFP vice chief of staff, said.

"They could not have bought them as our lieutenants and captains could not afford them out of their own resources ... That is why we are looking at the involvement of some other people, outside of the military," Garcia said at a breakfast forum in the Manila Pavilion. With a report from Martin P. Marfil


Copyright 2003, Philippine Daily Inquirer