MANILA, Philippines—The Philippine National Police has retired its Police Anti-Crime and Emergency Response unit, or Pacer, the task force responsible for solving kidnap-for-ransom cases in the country for nearly a decade.
Taking its place is the Anti-Kidnapping Group (AKG), with the same head but now with a fixed and bigger budget and supposedly better career paths for its personnel, officials said.
On Monday, PNP Director General Nicanor A. Bartolome formally launched AKG and demobilized Pacer, which was created in July 2002 in response to a series of high-profile kidnappings the year before.
In its nearly 10-year run, Pacer registered 373 kidnapping incidents, of which it solved 113, successfully prosecuted 140 kidnappers and killed 164 others in rescue operations, the PNP said in a press statement.
“There was a commendable decrease in KFR (kidnap-for-ransom) incidents from as high as 82 in year 2003 to an all-time low of 11 incidents in the year 2011,” said outgoing Pacer chief Senior Superintendent Isagani Nerez, who was designated AKG director.
Bartolome said AKG would be the primary unit tasked to handle all KFR cases as well as hostage situations.
In a phone interview, Nerez said AKG would benefit from its new status, particularly with regular funding, the promise of promotion for active members and a heightened “degree of professionalism.” He noted that Pacer, which served under the office of the PNP chief, worked under a budget of about P2.7 million every month but this was not fixed in the national budget.
As head of AKG, Nerez said he would propose a budget of P5 million a month, the bulk of which would be spent in recruiting new personnel and acquiring equipment, especially in Mindanao. This allocation would be clearly defined in the next national budget, he said.
“We will add 100 more personnel in Mindanao, and our target personnel overall is 490,” he said. There were about 100 Pacer members, some of them borrowed from the PNP’s elite Special Action Forces.
Nerez, a member of the Philippine Military Academy Class of 1984, said AKG would concentrate its operations in areas in Mindanao where an increase in kidnapping activities has been observed, including the cities of Zamboanga, Cotabato and General Santos.
In his message, Bartolome encouraged Nerez and AKG members to work in partnership with the community and maintain close coordination with other government agencies and non-government groups in the fight against kidnappers.
The PNP-AKG vision is that by the year 2030, the PNP-AKG shall be a highly capable unit with well-trained and -equipped personnel working in partnership with the community, he said.
AKG, Bartolome added, would be manned by trained negotiators, investigators, crisis managers and tactical officers.