Following the brazen assassination of Negros Oriental Governor Roel Degamo early this month, the government is now moving to dismantle private armed groups, particularly in areas where local government officials have been the target of armed attacks.
In fact, the National Task Force on Disbandment of Private Armed Groups (NTF-DPags) is now considering expanding its area of coverage and identifying hot spots where intense political rivalry at the local level has often led to violence.
Interior and Local Government Secretary and NTF-DPags Chairman Benjamin Abalos Jr. has emphasized that the “synergy of efforts” of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police is crucial in expanding the mandate of the task force across the nation.
Prior to the Degamo slay, government attention was focused on Mindanao; now its goal is to expand the scope of its work so that what has been done to restore peace in Mindanao can also be replicated in other parts of the country.
The national government’s program on DPags is being carried out through the security component of the Normalization Track under the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro, the landmark peace agreement signed between the Government of the Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in 2014.
For Defense Senior Undersecretary and NTF-DPags Special Adviser Carlito Galvez Jr., the mandate of the task force has become “more urgent” with the directive of President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. to solve the recent wave of attacks by lawless elements.
During the 11th Oversight Committee Meeting of the NTF-DPags recently, it was revealed there are no more active private armed groups operating in Western Mindanao as of the first quarter of this year.
How about in other areas where political dynasties intent on perpetuating themselves in office and thus wield enormous power and influence for as long as they can?
They will stop at nothing, even set up their own private armed groups, to intimidate and even liquidate their political adversaries and their supporters so they can rule their own fiefdoms in the provinces.
It is in the rural areas where politicians employ private armed groups to ensure that they remain in power or return to public office.
And recent news reports indicate former soldiers and police discharged dishonorably from the service are usually recruited as bodyguards by politicians.
These bodyguards form the core of a private armed group whose size depends on the specific security requirements of the politician.
The bigger the stakes, the bigger the armed contingent and their arsenal of weapons.
The result, as we have seen recently, is murder and mayhem one after another in various places, thus undermining the rule of law that’s supposed to be the foundation of a democratic system.