CAMP CRAME,  QUEZON CITY — The National Task Force on the Disbandment of Private Armed Groups (NTF-DPAGs) vowed to intensify its operations after successfully dismantling 15 armed groups operating in Mindanao, especially in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).

This was the consensus during the 8th NTF DPAGs Oversight Committee Meeting wherein the body approved the Joint Operational Guidelines of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National (PNP).

The operational guidelines, which were drafted by the National Task Group on Operations, will serve as the “bedrock for the future campaign” of the national government against PAGs. It prescribes the policies, guidelines, and procedures to be observed by the AFP and PNP in neutralizing PAGs.

The NTF-DPAGs member-agencies also concurred to ink a Memorandum of Agreement between different national line agencies focusing on the rehabilitation and reintegration initiatives for surrendered PAG members.

At the same time, the following agenda items were also approved by the body:

  • A Transition Plan for the next administration;
  • A Revised Monitoring and Evaluation Tool which validates the operations of the NTF;
  • A NTF-DPAGs Flow Chart which explains how the NTF-DPAGs operates and functions;
  • A NTF-DPAGs Orientation Module which outlines the mandate and streamline activities of the NTF and to ensure the maintenance of peace and security in localities; and,
  • A commitment to increase the awareness level of local government units on NTF-DPAGs, and capacitate LGUs to encourage their participation on the NTF-DPAGs program implementation.

The NTF-DPAGs has rolled out an information and awareness activity in barangays across the provinces of Maguindanao and Lanao del Sur.

Sustaining the gains of peace efforts

PLtGen Jose Chiquito Malayo, commander of Task Force Western Mindanao, reported that the 15 disbanded PAGs were composed of 94 members who yielded 86 firearms.

Task Force Eastern Mindanao Commander, PMGen Filmore Escobal noted that there are no active or potential PAGs but 14 criminal gangs operating in Region 10 (Northern Mindanao) and Region 11 (Davao Region).

Defense Asst. Sec. for Plans and Programs Angelito De Leon lauded the Task Force for its accomplishments.

De Leon noted that “[in] short time, a substantial number of private armed-groups and profiled surrenderees have been profiled and are soon to receive social economic packages once available” since the NTF-DPAGs was reactivated two years ago.

Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity (OPAPRU) Dir. Wendell Orbeso cited the strong partnership between his agency, the DILG, AFP, PNP, and other member agencies which has enabled the NTF-DPAGs to effectively carry out its mandate.

Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo Año described the operating guidelines as the “most well-thought out and most proper operational guidelines that can be used by other task forces.”

Año also expressed his gratitude to members of the NTF-DPAGs for their steadfast commitment to bring a just and lasting peace not only in the BARMM, but throughout Mindanao and the country especially in the outcome of the May 2022 elections.

“From Day One of the campaign period, up to the last day of canvassing of votes, no major untoward incidents were recorded because of our vigilance and preparations. If there were some, those were only minor and isolated incidents that the military and police force were able to swiftly address,” he added.

Año is hopeful that the incoming administration will “focus on the long term goals and capitalize gains of peace” achieved under the Duterte Administration.

“​​Let us strengthen and speed up our programs that not only redeem and embrace back our brothers and sisters into the fold but also prevent them from taking up arms and bringing their grievances against the law,” he said.

For his part, Presidential Peace Adviser Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. noted that the peacekeeping efforts of the NTF-DPAGs continues to gain momentum as it carries out its crucial mandate.

“We shall be relentless in carrying out a whole-of-a-government and whole-of-society approach in putting an end to the cycle of violence caused by these PAGs,” Galvez said in his message during the oversight meeting.

He also underscored the importance of increasing the community engagement and visibility of the Task Force in the Bangsamoro and in Regions 9, 10, 11, and 12.

“This will enable the task force to make itself more visible in communities, rally the support of stakeholders, and prevent the creation of new PAGS,” he enunciated.

The peace adviser also appealed to the public to set aside differences brought about by the national and local elections to rally support for the next administration “as they take over the reins of nation-building.”

“Let us work together in tearing down the walls of divisiveness, bitterness, and animosity of partisan politics as we move towards national healing and reconciliation,” Galvez added.###