MANILA, Sept. 14 — Jamming of the brand-new R4A3 carbine rifles during the Aug. 29 engagement with the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) bandits was caused by dirt and not due to technical defects of the weapons.
This was stressed by Philippine Army (PA) spokesperson Col. Benjamin Hao in a statement Wednesday.
“It can be attributed to environmental and operational factors,” he added.
Around 15 soldiers were killed and 10 were wounded in the said encounter.
“Most of the rifles inspected by our firearms experts were full of dirt. After applying proper maintenance procedures, all rifles functioned well except for one M-14 rifle that has a destroyed barrel part,” Hao stressed.
He added the PA sent a team of rifle experts to check the veracity of the alleged stoppages of the R4A3 carbine rifles, a K-3 squad automatic weapon, and an M-14 rifle during the actual encounter of the 35th Infantry Battalion with the ASG in Patikul, Sulu last Aug. 29.
The team collected the eight R4A3s, the K-3 squad automatic rifle and an M-14 rifle which allegedly malfunctioned as reported by the using unit during the encounter.
Initial test made by the team showed that indeed, the rifles did not function when used as is, meaning the rifles were fired uncleaned.
However, after proper maintenance procedures were applied, all rifles functioned well.
“Our conclusion is that the problem is not about the rifles. The prevailing weather and sustained on-going operations against the ASG partly affected the proper maintenance and care of the soldiers’ rifles,” Hao said.
There was also an alleged problem on old ammunition used for R4A3 which is also the same used by the old M-16 rifle.
When presented to the firearms experts, the said old ammunition all fired using the cleaned rifles.
In order to remove the apprehensions of the soldiers on the ground about the old bullets in spite of the results of the test, the PA decided to issue new ammunition to the operating troops.
The PA also reminded all its troops to turnover firearms with destroyed parts to replace them with new parts that were already sent to the front-lines.
“We have already directed our operating troops to follow strictly the maintenance procedures of all our firearms and ammunition,” Hao explained.
“Even the best war fighting equipment needs proper maintenance too,” he added.
By Priam F. Nepomuceno