Saturday, February 20, 2016

PNP to deploy 100 SAF commandos to Masbate to augment gov't forces vs lawless groups
By Rhaydz B. Barcia

MASBATE CITY, Feb. 19 (PNA) -- The Philippine National Police (PNP) will deploy 100 Special Action Force (SAF) commandos from Cordillera, who are currently on test mission in Compostela Valley, in the island-province of Masbate next month to augment government troops now in the province, the top PNP official in Bicol said Friday.

Chief Supt. Augusto Marquez, PNP-Bicol regional director, said the SAF members would augment the 700 policemen under Regional Task Force Masbate that he dispatched last week here and the current 1,000 regular policemen of the Masbate Provincial Police Office.

Meanwhile, the Armed Forces of the Philippines will deploy also 100 soldiers more, according to Southern Luzon Command chief Lt. Gen. Ricardo R. Visaya.

Masbate province has been identified by the Commission on Elections as one of the six areas of concern in the country, with a history of election-related violence in the past and the presence of New People's Army (NPA) rebels and private armed groups (PAGs).

VIsaya warned politicians employing communist insurgents as PAGs that they will be dealt with accordingly if found cuddling and giving money and arms to government enemies.

The Solcom commander's warning came after local mayors in Masbate revealed in a dialogue here on Tuesday that powerful politicians in the province are employing NPA members, former and active soldiers, policemen from Mindanao as PAGs.

Local mayors also said that some politicians even swapped goons with their counterparts in Samar and Sorsogon provinces to threaten and kill people.

The mayors' expose came out during the first joint AFP-PNP-Special Task Force Masbate dialogue with reelectionists and candidates running for various posts held at Camp Bonny Serrano here.

The dialogue aimed to address peace and security issues in the province as well as get the commitment of the provincial, city and municipal chief executives and candidates to ensure safe, clean, honest and peaceful elections here.

The AFP and the PNP initiated the joint dialogue with the candidates to seek commitment from them for safe, fair, honest and peaceful elections in May.

During the dialogue, former Masbate City prosecutor Freddy Sera said powerful politicians were hiring criminals, maintaining PAGs, and giving grease money and arming the NPA rebels in the province.

Sera even challenged politicians here to stop importing and maintaining PAGs and supporting the NPA to put an end to the series of election-related incidents here.

Retired policeman Elpidio Daligtig of Cataingan, Masbate, who is running for town councilor, also revealed that politicians in Masbate are swapping goons from Samar in Visaya and Sorsogon provinces with their counterparts in these areas.

Aside from exchanging goons, big-time politicians are hiring retired and active soldiers, policemen and criminals to terrorize and kill people, according to Daligdig.

San Jacinto Mayor Leny A. Arcenas said the killings that have taken place in Masbate have been associated to the election fever.

Arcenas said they were happy that the Masbate Special Task Force had been re-established here to thwart bloody election-related violence here.

Visaya warned politicians here that they face necessary action from the government once found violating the law.

“We will go after you even if you are our friends. We will intensify our intelligence gathering and go after those involved in this unlawful act,” he said.

The Solcom chief said the communist insurgents remained as a potent threat for the May 2016 polls following the imposition of extortion activities in the guise of permit to campaign or permit to win.

Chief Insp. Arturo Gomez, spokesman of Task Force Masbate, said there were four PAGs operating in Masbate.

Marquez warned PNP personnel taking sides with politicians.

He said he would dismiss cops found out violating the PNP Code of Conduct and making wrongdoings.

The PNP Bicol and the AFP will conduct a peace covenant on Feb. 26 among local politicians here in pursuit of a peaceful conduct of synchronized national and local elections.(PNA) RMA/FGS/RBB/CBD/EDS