ZAMBOANGA CITY – Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Eduardo Año on Wednesday ordered an intensive crackdown on private armed groups (PAGs) in Western Mindanao.
Speaking during a press conference here, Año said PAGs should be dismantled as they are most likely to become active as the election nears since candidates might use them to advance their own interests.
“The best way to prevent violence is to ensure the neutralization of these PAGs,” he said after meeting with top DILG, military, and police officials at the Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) headquarters in Campo Navarro.
He said there are 22 active and more than 100 potential PAGs in the Westmincom areas of operation that extend from Western Mindanao to Central Mindanao.
A PAG is an organized group of two or more persons with legally or illegally possessed firearms, utilized for purposes of committing acts of violence and/or sowing fear and intimidation or any violations of the law for the advancement and protection of vested economic and/or political interest.
A potential PAG, on the other hand, is an organized group of two or more persons with legally issued or illegally possessed firearms that could be utilized to sow fear and intimidation for the advancement of and protection of vested political or economic interest of a particular politician or people.
Lt. Gen. Jose Chiquito Malayo, Police Area Command chief, said of the 22 PAGs, 18 are under the area of the Police Regional Office -Bangsamoro Autonomous Region (PRO-BAR) while two are in the area of PRO 12 (Soccsksargen).
Malayo said 11 of the 18 PAGs have already been disbanded. Of the remaining seven PAGs, five operate in PRO-BAR areas and two in PRO-12.
He said there is no existing PAG in the areas of PRO 9 (Zamboanga Peninsula) but there are potential PAGs.
The Police Area Command (PAC) and Westmincom have the same area of operations.
Meanwhile, top military and police officials within PAC and Westmincom committed to supporting the campaign against PAGs.
Local government officials, through their respective DILG regional heads, also expressed support for the campaign to dismantle PAGs in their respective localities. (PNA)