Naga cops also go after armed groups in MasbateBy Juan Escandor Jr., Mar Arguelles
Inquirer Southern Luzon
NAGA CITY—Some 55 members of the Naga City police force will be sent to Masbate as the Philippine National Police in Bicol organizes a task force to go after private armed groups (PAGS) that are expected to be used by politicians in the island-province in the May 2013 elections.
The policemen left on Monday for the PNP regional headquarters in Legazpi City prior to their assignment to Masbate.
Supt. Ferdinand Raymundo, head of the regional police community relations office, said the members of the city police force would be deployed for a still undetermined period at the regional command before going to Masbate.
He said the order of temporary assignment came from Bicol police director Chief Supt. Arne de los Santos, who last week created Task Force Masbate to secure the province in view of its long history of violence during elections.
City Mayor John Bongat was, however, unhappy with the reduction of the city police force, saying the city needs all its policemen for the holidays.
The number of police personnel left in the city was some 300, Raymundo said.
Bongat on Monday said he did not receive any official communication from the PNP regarding the reassignment.
Task Force Masbate was created after the PNP released a report which said that among the 15 election hot spots in the country, at least six PAGs were operating in Masbate.
De los Santos said the Task Force shall be composed of 240 police personnel from different units of the regional command with the main task of going after the PAGs and recovering loose firearms in Masbate.
He said there are about 2,000 undocumented firearms in Masbate.
De los Santos said police data presented during a meeting of the Masbate Provincial Law Enforcement Coordinating Council recently showed there were 2,178 firearms licenses in the province that were not renewed by the police last year.
Of this figure, only 188 gun holders submitted their firearms for licensing, he said.
The police have also identified 38 members of two PAGs that belonged to the Arizobal and Villaruel groups, he added.