ENVIRONMENTAL and operational factors could have been behind the reported malfunctioning of the R4A3 carbine rifles used by soldiers during their encounter with the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) on August 29 in Patikul, Sulu which led to the killing of 15 soldiers.
Philippine Army (PA) spokesman Colonel Benjamin L. Hao said that based on the report of firearms experts sent to the area the guns said to have malfunctioned were full of dirt.
Hao said most of the rifles inspected by the team were full of dirt but after cleaning them all rifles functioned well.
“Most of the rifles inspected by our firearms experts were full of dirt but after applying proper maintenance procedures, all rifles functioned well except for one M-14 rifle that has a destroyed barrel part,” Hao said.
In response to the report on malfunctioning guns, the Philippine Army immediately sent a team of rifle experts to check the R4A3 carbine rifles, a K3 squad automatic weapon, and an M-14 rifle used in the encounter of the 35th Infantry Battalion with the Abu Sayyaf group in Patikul, Sulu where 15 soldiers died and 12 were wounded.
The team gathered the eight R4A3s, a squad automatic rifle (K3), and an M-14 rifle which allegedly malfunctioned as reported by the unit using them.
The report said initial test made by the team showed that the rifles did not function when used as is. However, after “proper maintenance procedures” were applied, all rifles functioned well.
“Our conclusion is that the problem is not with the rifles,” said Hao.
“The prevailing weather and sustained on-going operations against the ASG partly affected the proper maintenance and care of the soldiers’ rifles,” he added.
There was also an alleged problem with old ammunition used for R4A3 which is also the same ammunition size used for an M-16 rifle.
When tested by the firearms experts, the old ammunition all fired using the cleaned rifles.