By Noralyn A. Macabalang
KIDAPAWAN CITY – The government security cluster through the National Task Force on Disbandment of Private Armed Groups (NTF-DPAGs) has upgraded operational guidelines after “successfully dismantling 15 armed groups” in Southern Philippines, notably in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), according to the Office of the Presidential on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity (OPAPRU).
The operational enhancement surfaced as a consensus during the 8th NTF-DPAGs’ Oversight Committee Meeting in Camp Crame wherein the Task Force approved addendums in the Joint Operational Guidelines of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National (PNP), the OPAPRU said in a statement.
The enhanced operational guidelines will serve as the “bedrock for the future campaign” of the national government against PAGs, prescribing policies, mechanisms and procedures for the AFP and PNP to observe in neutralizing PAGs, the statement said.
It said that member-agencies of the task force also agreed to sign a memorandum of agreement among different national line agencies focusing on the rehabilitation and reintegration initiatives for surrendered PAG members.
The meeting, it said, also approved other agenda, namely: A Transition Plan for the next administration; a Revised Monitoring and Evaluation Tool which validates the operations of the NTF; an NTF-DPAGs flow chart that explains how the NTF-DPAGs will operate and function; and an orientation module which outlines the mandate and streamline activities of the NTF to sustain peace and security in localities.
The conference, the OPAPRU added, also elicited member-agencies’ commitment to increase the awareness level of local government units on NTF-DPAGs, and capacitate LGUs to encourage their participation in the NTF-DPAGs program implementation.
The Task Force has already rolled out an information and awareness activity in selected villages of Maguindanao and Lanao del Sur, both components of the BARMM, the OPAPRU said.
15 disbanded PAGs
OPAPRU cited Police Lt. Gen. Jose Chiquito Malayo, commander of Task Force Western Mindanao, as reporting that the 15 disbanded PAGs in BARMM areas were composed of 94 members who yielded 86 firearms.
It said that Task Force Eastern Mindanao Commander, Police Maj. Gen. Filmore Escobal announced the absence of active or potential PAGs, but revealed 14 criminal gangs operating in Regions 10 and 11.
Defense Asst. Sec. for Plans and Programs Angelito De Leon lauded the Task Force for its accomplishments.
“[in] short time, a substantial number of private armed-groups and profiled surrenderees have been profiled and are soon to receive social economic packages once available” De Leona was quoted as saying, noting that the NTF-DPAGs was reactivated two years ago.
OPAPRU Dir. Wendell Orbeso underscored the close partnership by his agency with the DILG, AFP, PNP, and other member agencies which has enabled the NTF-DPAGs to effectively carry out its mandate.
DILG Secretary Eduardo Año, for his part, described the operating guidelines as the “most well-thought out and most proper operational guidelines that can be used by other task forces.”
Año lauded all members of the NTF-DPAGs for their steadfast commitment to bring a just and lasting peace not only in the BARMM, but throughout Mindanao and the country especially in the outcome of the May 2022 elections.
“From Day One of the campaign period, up to the last day of canvassing of votes, no major untoward incidents were recorded because of our vigilance and preparations. If there were some, those were only minor and isolated incidents that the militant and police force were able to swiftly address,” Año was quoted as saying.
Año was hopeful that the incoming administration of President-elect Bongbong Marcos will “focus on the long term goals and capitalize gains of peace” achieved under the Duterte Administration.
Presidential Peace Adviser Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr., on the other hand, noted that the peacekeeping efforts of the NTF-DPAGs have continued to gain momentum.
“We shall be relentless in carrying out a whole-of-a-government and whole-of-society approach in putting an end to the cycle of violence caused by these PAGs,” Galvez said in his message during the oversight meeting. (NAM)