QUEZON CITY — The National Task Force for the Disbandment of Private Armed Groups (NTF-DPAGs) has disbanded eight private armed groups operating in the province of Maguindanao and General Santos City within the first two quarters of this year.

This was announced by Police Lieutenant General Jose Chiquito Malayo, commander of the Task Force Western Mindanao of the NTF-DPAGs, who presented the Task Force’s accomplishments during the Fourth Oversight Committee Meeting of the NTF-DPAGs held on Friday, May 28.

“The recent milestones of the NTF DPAGs, particularly on the increasing number of disbanded PAGs is a manifestation of the government’s commitment in maintaining peace and order in Mindanao,” Malayo said.

The disbanded private armed groups, he said, include Datu Tha Sinsuat, Ibay, Pananggalan, Dingalen, Matalam, Abo and Mamasabulod in Maguindanao, and the Mudia Group in General Santos City.

According to Malayo, there are only 12 active PAGs in Western Mindanao as of May 27.

The Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB), the landmark peace agreement signed by the government and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in 2014, provides for a comprehensive approach in strengthening peace and order, as well as addressing emerging security concerns in the Bangsamoro region.

These lines of effort includes the disbandment of private armed groups, the implementation of a program for small arms and light weapons management, the redeployment of Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), policing, and the clearing of unexploded ordnance (UXO) and landmines.

Aside from successfully disbanding PAGs in Western Mindanao, the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) has also rolled out its program for the disbandment of private armed groups on May 11, 2021.

The program’s main objectives are to ensure the maintenance of peace and security in localities, increase the awareness level of local government units on NTF-DPAGs, and capacitate LGUs so they help NTF-DPAGs in the implementation of peace and security interventions.

Meanwhile, the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) has downloaded the funds to line agencies which are implementing the program on the disbandment of PAGs.

These agencies include the DILG, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), and the Philippine National Police (PNP).

The DILG received Php 26,949,82, the AFP Php 25,683,900 for AFP; and the PNP 24,493,350.

Task group on rehabilitation and reintegration

During the meeting, the task force officials proposed the creation of the National Task Group on Rehabilitation and Reintegration under the NTF-DPAGs to further provide a holistic approach in the disbandment of PAGs.

According to NTF-DPAGs Secretariat Head and Joint Normalization Co-Chair Ariel Hernandez , the national task group aims “to determine the socioeconomic assistance to be given to the surrendered members of PAGs, and other components rehabilitation and reintegration components.”

Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo Año approved the creation of the task group.

“This is very important because this will complete the circle in ensuring that [they] will not go back again into bearing arms and joining private armed groups,” Año stressed.

Presidential Peace Adviser Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. also threw his full support behind the creation of the task group.

“This is an important project, a holistic approach in transforming the lives of former PAG members into peaceful civilian life and addressing the different conditions that made people join private armed groups. We will help with the creation of this task group, OPAPP will support this initiative,” Galvez said.

Whole-of-Nation approach vs PAGs

Meanwhile, Año also reiterated his guidance to members of the task force as they conduct operations against PAGs.

“We must utilize the Whole-of-Nation approach to completely dismantle private armed groups. We must provide them with incentives such as livelihood assistance, rehabilitation programs and reintegration opportunities,” he said.

Año also highlighted the importance of engaging local government units, as well as involving members of the community in neutralizing PAGs.

“We need the help of the local government units and communities in achieving our goal of disbanding PAGs. We must inform them of our advocacy and consult them about the realities on the ground,” he said.

For his part, Galvez underscored how the newly-created task group can contribute in sustaining the gains of peace in Mindanao.

“As members of the task force against PAGs, let us help in sustaining the gains of peace in Mindanao by disbanding the private armed groups, and creating the conditions where these lawless elements cannot thrive,” he emphasized.

“The body’s accomplishments during this period reflect the steadfast commitment, solidarity, and dedication of our members in pursuing our program for the disbandment of private armed groups,” Galvez added. ###