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Pols with private armies warned

By Mar S. Arguelles

LEGAZPI CITY --- The Philippine National Police (PNP) in Bicol on Friday issued a warning that they will go after political candidates who maintain or hire private armed groups (PAGs) for the May 2019 election, a police officer said.

Chief Inspector Maria Luisa Calubaquib, PNP Bicol spokesperson, said the Bicol police command is holding an assessment of politicians who in previous electoral exercises had engaged in hiring or maintaining private armed group aimed to take advantage over their political rivals as well as solicit votes with the use of force or threat.

Calubaquib in an interview said, “We are starting to review our records where the names

of politicians were reported to have employed PAGs, and have acquired loose firearms during previous local elections.”

Records indicate that a PAG is composed of 20 to 30 armed men under the employ of politicians who pay P25,000 each for PAGs without firearms and P50,000 each for those with firearms.

She said the assessment process is in response to a directive from Police Camp Crame headquarters to all regional police offices to conduct validation of the list of politicians with PAGs and include their names in the police watch list.

The watchlist would include the names of politicians and the number of PAGs being employed, including the firearms being used.

The assessment would be a basis for crafting a police security plan for the mid-term election on May 13, next year, she said.

The security plan would be submitted to the Commission on Election and once approved this would be a basis in declaring a particular town, city or province as Comelec area of concern.

Included in the security plan are data of incidents of political killings, the presence of PAGs, loose firearms, and presence of New People’s Army (NPA) rebels.

Based on the possible threats during the May 2019 election campaign the police regional command would decide to create an election Task Force group and send additional police personnel to quell violence and maintain orderliness during the election, Calubaquib said.

Comelec- PNP data in past election events have identified the provinces of Masbate, Camarines Sur, and Camarines Norte as election areas of concern due to intense political rivalries and the presence of Private Armed Groups (PAGS) and the New People Army (NPA) rebels.

Based on the list, Masbate has the most number of villages that were placed under Comelec control with 40 villages in 18 towns.

In the previous national and local elections, there were at least six private armed group listed operating in Masbate, where two of those identified as active were the Arizobal and Villaruel groups with 38 members.

During the 2012 national and local election, a Task Force was able to seize hundreds of loose firearms and even as it sought political candidates to surrender at least 200 high powered firearms.

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