PNP: 80% of private armies keep hideouts in Mindanao
DAVAO CITY—At least eight out of every 10 private armed groups that police are keeping a close watch on are in two of the most volatile regions in Mindanao, the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) and Central Mindanao, according to the chief of the Philippine National Police.
Director General Ricardo Marquez, PNP chief, said police surveillance on these groups is increasing, especially as the May elections draw near and amid reports that some of the armed groups are being used by politicians.
At least 80 percent of the private armed groups operating in the country are found in the two Mindanao regions, he added.
“Some of them are identified with certain candidates,” Marquez said. He declined to identify the politicians.
ARMM is made up of the provinces of Maguindanao, Basilan, Lanao del Sur, Tawi-Tawi and Sulu, while Central Mindanao is composed of the provinces of North and South Cotabato, Sarangani and Sultan Kudarat and the cities of Cotabato, General Santos, Tacurong, Kidapawan and Koronadal.
Marquez said in priority areas, like the ARMM, the national task force for the disbandment of private armies had already taken over peacekeeping tasks.
Marquez was in the city for a two-day command conference of the PNP.
Marquez said the operation of private armed groups is among the risk factors identified by the PNP as police work on security plans for the elections.
The other factors include proliferation of illegal firearms, presence of insurgents and other threat groups in rural areas.
Marquez said police are supporting the counterinsurgency operations of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
He said at least 99 election hot spots had been identified.
Police, he said, are now implementing what the PNP chief said is a “whole government approach” in securing the elections. This strategy is similar to that used for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) summit held recently in Manila, said Marquez.
He said securing the Apec summit taught him that security is not the concern only of the police, but the entire government.
“What we would like to see more is a much closer coordination with other agencies,” he said. Germelina Lacorte and Judy Quiros, Inquirer Mindanao
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