Solons seek to dismantle LGU-sponsored paramilitary groups in Mindanao areas during 2019 elections

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, October 8) — Lawmakers agreed on Monday to limit the proposed ban on the activation and deployment of local government-sponsored Special CAFGU Active Auxiliary Company (SCAAC) in Zamboanga del Norte and Cotabato during the 2019 elections.

This, after the House Committee on National Defense and Security conducted a hearing on two resolutions, seeking to prevent the activation and deployment of SCAAC in the entire Mindanao region from the start of filing of Certificate of Candidacy (COC) this month until after the lifting of the election ban in 2019.

Some lawmakers from Mindanao said some local officials were using the program to form private armies for their personal gain.

Zamboanga del Norte Rep. Seth Frederick Jalosjos raised concerns about some paramilitary groups' involvement in cases of election-related violence.

"As a representative of my district, alam ko po on the ground na mababa po yung threat assessment in this part of Mindanao, in Zamboanga del Norte specifically. In fact, there's no proof that even if there's SCAAC it could change or it could even help in our peace and order," Jalosjos said.

[Translation: As a representative of my district, I know on the ground there is low threat assessment in this part of Mindanao, in Zamboanga del Norte specifically.]

Jalosjos survived an assassination attempt during the 2016 campaign period. He claimed the perpetrators were identified as members of a paramilitary group under the supervision of a local politician.

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff Alexander Yano, who attended the hearing with other military officials, admitted the program is riddled with problems.

He also agreed with lawmakers, saying there is a need to deactivate LGU-sponsored paramilitary groups in some areas in Mindanao.

"I want to support the observation of the chairman that the threats in areas in Mindanao have considerably declined... hence, the need for SCAAC in these areas may no longer be necessary. And you said the PNP (Philippine National Police) can very well handle this they have their SAF (Special Action Force) and their public safety units," Yano said.

AFP Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations General Isidro Purisima said an assessment must be done before the groups could be dismantled, and their deployments be disallowed.

Purisima said there are at least 2,000 LGU-sponsored paramilitary personnel in Mindanao, some of whom are serving critical areas where terrorists are operating.

However, Jalosjos insisted the issue should be decided upon immediately as the period for the filing of COC begins on Thursday.

Jalosjos even suggested the program should be suspended while deliberations on the ban are underway.

The AFP, however, maintained a thorough evaluation should be done before any deactivation gets ordered.

The panel then decided to draft the resolution specific only to Jalosjos' province Zamboanga del Norte, and Cotabato as suggested by other lawmakers.

The solons target to pass the resolutions before the filing of COCs on Thursday.