80 SAF men sent to Calbayog to stop PAGs
Miriam Garcia Desacada (The Freeman) - February 3, 2016 - 9:00am

TACLOBAN CITY, Philippines — At least 80 members of elite Special Action Force of the Philippine National Police are now in Calbayog City, with the mission to stop the continued recruitment of children as front-liners of private armed groups (PAGs) operating in the first district of Samar.

These PAGs have been tagged as responsible in the series of killings in Samar, while terrorizing voters in Tarangnan town.

Calbayog City Mayor Ronald Aquino, in an exclusive interview with The Freeman, said the deployment of the SAF, in coordination with the Armed Forces of the Philippines, or soldiers from the 8th Infantry Division, will ultimately bring peaceful and credible May 9 elections.

While thanking the president for concern to end the killings in Samar, Aquino, as chair of the Regional Peace and Order Council, told DILG Secretary Mel Senen Sarmiento that he wished for a fair and just law enforcement, and stop the senseless killings.

“I know we are on the right track to make our dreams come true because we need peace especially this coming election,” the mayor said.

Samar Police Provincial Office director, Senior Superintendent Rommel Cabagnot, also in a phone interview, told The Freeman the SAF will only serve during the election period and will respond to any eventualities as support forces to the local police.

“The SAF will not only focus its services in Calbayog but will be on call during the election period. They have to respond to incidents; walang pipiliin, dapat patas,” Cabagnot added.

Before the deployment of SAF and additional men from the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group earlier, there were at least four political leaders of the Liberal Party were killed in two incidents in Calbayog City and Gandara town in Samar.

Mayor Aquino further confirmed that more PAGs are now reportedly being organized by an unnamed political figure in Samar, which was with five other provinces in the country the PNP had declared as areas of concern in the coming elections.

Chief Supt. Jose Erwin Villacorte, Police Regional Office-8 director, reported during the recent meeting of the Regional Joint Security Coordinating Center that the declaration of 44 immediate areas of concern in Samar was due to the series of killings of political leaders in that province.

Police heads around Eastern Visayas were also ordered to assess election-related factors in their respective areas, such as the presence of PAGs, politically-related incidents, political rivalries and loose firearms.

Police records showed that 48 shooting incidents in the region were recorded in 2014, and 43 last year, most victims of which were barangay leaders supporting politicians.

Villacorte said PRO-8 was optimistic PAGs will be neutralized before election day, and that the Army’s 8th ID had earlier captured seven suspected members of PAGs. —(FREEMAN)

ARMED FORCES OF THE PHILIPPINES CALBAYOG CITY CALBAYOG CITY AND GANDARA CALBAYOG CITY MAYOR RONALD AQUINO CHIEF SUPT CRIMINAL INVESTIGATION AND DETECTION GROUP EASTERN VISAYAS INFANTRY DIVISION JOSE ERWIN VILLACORTE LIBERAL PARTY SAMAR
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