CABANATUAN CITY?To prevent crimes and help the police in maintaining peace and order, some 6,000 community-based volunteers were recruited by the Nueva Ecija police to form the barangay peacekeeping action teams (BPAT).
As a force multiplier for the police in the province, the BPAT members were trained in barangay level conflict resolution as well as in crisis management, particularly during calamities and disasters, according to Nueva Ecija police director Senior Supt. Ricardo Marquez.
He, however, allayed fears that these volunteer peacekeepers may turn into private armies or that they would be beholden to civilian officials or any politician.
?They will not be allowed to carry firearms. They will be closely supervised and their activities monitored,? he said.
His assurance is necessary as what immediately comes to mind is the fear that these volunteer peacekeepers may become a big problem later like what happened in Maguindanao where civilian peacekeepers virtually became beholden to certain politicians there.
Marquez said the BPAT members would also complement police efforts in intelligence gathering. ?This is a product of the collaborative efforts of the police and the Department of Interior and Local Government. All villages in the 27 towns and five cities in Nueva Ecija have now BPAT members,? he said.
Gov. Aurelio Umali, who was present during the mass oath-taking of the BPAT members at the Nueva Ecija Sports Complex in Palayan City, lauded the project as he said it would boost the campaign to improve the peace and order situation in the province.
The recruitment of the BPAT members came in the heels of the pronouncement by officials that Nueva Ecija is one of those pinpointed as an area of concern in the run-up to the May 2010 elections.
Nueva Ecija is suspected to have many loose firearms. Also, three incidents of grenade-throwing?two in Bongabon town and one in Jaen town?were reported in the last three months. No one was hurt in those incidents.