DIPOLOG CITY, Philippines – Despite repeated pronouncements by the military here that Zamboanga del Norte is peaceful, the governor is determined to organize a civilian armed force to help combat insurgency “and other forms of lawlessness.”
In a letter to the Sangguniang Panlalawigan, the provincial board, Governor Roberto Y. Uy had asked for authority to create a Special CAFGU Active Auxiliary (SCAA) unit. On June 15, the provincial board passed a resolution requesting Brigadier General Gerardo Barrientos, commander of the Army’s 1st“Tabak” Division based in Pagadian City, to allow Uy to organize a SCAA unit for Zamboanga del Norte.
In his letter certified as urgent, Uy said he intended to use the SCAA to achieve peace and order and provide security residents.
Board Member Crisologo A. Desierdo, Sangguniang Panlalawigan’s Majority Floor Leader, told Rappler that the provincial leadership wanted to organize its own SCAA because “there is shortage of military and police forces to effectively protect the province.”
But this contradicts the Army’s assessment that the province does not face any major or immediate security threat. The 101st brigade, tasked to secure Zamboanga del Norte and part of Misamis Occidental, is under the Army’s 1st Division.
“Zamboanga del Norte remains peaceful,” said Captain Jason Mararac, 101st Brigade’s Civil Military Operations chief.
The mixed messages from the provincial government and the Army’s 101st Brigade have caused anxiety among residents. Local media have repeatedly asked both the military and Uy to come up with a common declaration on the matter.
“Nabalaka ang katawhan nga gamiton lang ang SCAA karong eleksyon (Residents fear that the new SCAA will just be used in next year’s elections),” said a news story published by The New Nandau Today.
The military is allowing big private companies and local government units to organize SCAA units for their security, so that soldiers can focus on major security threats.
SCAA units will be trained and armed by the Army, but their salaries, uniforms and other expenses will be shouldered by the company or local government units that organize them. – Rappler.com