MANILA - Weapons were readily available to the terrorist Maute Group, which has kept a siege in the southern city of Marawi for almost a month now, due to a shadow economy of firearms in Mindanao, an analyst said Monday.
"Historically, if we look at Mindanao rebellion, when central authority comes in, Moro groups tend to unite because they feel it as a threat. In Mindanao as of 2010, there were 500,000 weapons and less than a third are licensed," Eddie Quitoriano, author of a study on illicit weapons and their links to violent conflict, told ANC's Early Edition.
"Roughly 400,000 are illegal weapons. Multiply that with accumulation, so readily you would have weapons in the communities, hands of farmers trying to protect themselves, crime syndicates, rebel groups," he added.
Quitoriano also noted Philippine gun laws are "very liberal"
"The latest gun law RA 10591 is even more liberal because it looks at a gun as a commodity. So regulation is strict but supply is welcomed," he said.
He estimated the number of illicit weapons in the Philippines is at 3 million. He urged the government to improve coordination between the Philippine National Police and the Bureau of Customs to better keep tabs on firearms.
"Practically, the Armed Forces, security sector, is outgunned by civilians and that really goes in the grain of state building where the state is supposed to have the monopoly," he said, adding that it was a "good sign" if President Rodrigo Duterte's statement to "bulldoze" captured weapons last week is translated to an executive order under the martial law in Mindanao.