Stalled SIP “greatly affects” peace efforts – Gov. Calingasan

MALAYBALAY CITY (11 April) – The stalled Social Integration Program (SIP) of the national government is “greatly affecting” the peace efforts in the province, Bukidnon Gov. Alex Calingasan told a press conference Monday.

Calingasan said many New People’s Army rebels who surrendered to the government have become uneasy over the delay of the release of social integration funds from the national government through the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process.

The governor said he was told that 10 rebels who wanted to surrender firearms through the SIP’s Balik Baril scheme were having second thoughts because they weren’t sure if the program was still ongoing.

He stressed the point to reporters after the graduation rites of a new batch of 192 graduates of the Special CAFGU Active Auxiliary (SCAA) Basic Military Training at Camp Osito Bahian, in Impalambong, Malaybalay City. 

During the opening program of the Broadcasters’ Month on April 7 organized by the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas Bukidnon Chapter, Calingasan said the provincial government was forced to give initial livelihood funds to 102 persons who surrendered to the government last year in Cabanglasan town. 

The provincial government released P15,000 each to the “uneasy” returnees, he added.

Col. Romeo Gapuz, 403rd Brigade commanding officer, said the Balik Baril program was temporarily stopped pending a review of its rewards system. He said there were suspicions the system was being abused.

“Until OPAPP redesigns the system that’s the time we can resume with the program,” he added.

But Gapuz denied there were people who abused the system.

He said there were doubts about some of the surrenderees who did not turn in firearms.

“If they have no firearms they must be in the OB (order of battle) to be admitted in the reward system,” he added.

Calingasan defended his position favoring the creation of more SCAA units in the province even if he wants peace.

He said the SCAA are there to defend, not to make offensives,” he added. (Walter I. Balane)



Bukidnon biz sector to DILG, police: Help us against violence, extortions

MALAYBALAY CITY – A group of at least 20 business establishments wrote Local Governments Sec. Jessie Robredo asking for help against violence and extortions targeting them, Sr. Supt. Rey Crestito Gonzalodo, Bukidnon police director said Saturday.

He said the group talked to Robredo personally in a conference in Caprice Hotel in Cagayan de Oro City last month.

“They are seeking support and assistance against violence and extortions of alleged members of the New People’s Army (NPA) and local bandits for them to continue producing foods for our countrymen,” Gonzalodo said in a text message to Bukidnon News.

Last week, Gonzalodo urged the business sector not only to hire security guards but also help fund the organization of Special Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Unit (CAFGU) Active Auxiliary (SCAA) to secure their businesses.

He said that though securing the public is their primary responsibility, businessmen must not rely only on what the police and military can provide.

“The police and the military cannot be in their properties at all times,” he said.

Amid reports of extortion activities in the province, Gonzalodo said business establishments targeted by extortionists must organize among themselves and collectively raise funds to put up SCAA units for their protection against extortion activities.

Gonzalodo said he received a letter earlier this month from a group of at least 20 businessmen who complained about the extortion activities and sought police assistance.
He said the group is composed of plantation owners and hog and poultry raisers.

He said once they have organized, they could ask the military to organize the SCAA.

But he said that although the SCAA, a paramilitary unit, is more effective, affected businessmen should still invest in their security.  He lamented that many of the hog and poultry owners do not hire security guards.

He said suspected members of the New Peoples’ Army attacked hog and poultry farms and plantations in Malaybalay City and in other towns.

Gonzalodo noted an increase in reported extortion in the first quarter of 2011.

He also urged businessmen not to give in to the demands of the extortionists and to report information to them.
“Do not give to these groups pretending to be the NPA. Even to the NPA,” he added.

Instead of giving in to extortion, Gonzalodo added, the businessmen should invest their money fo the allowances, uniform, provision, and equipment of the SCAA.

He said the military will take charge of training, firearms, and ammunition.

Gonzalodo said a mix of SCAA and police auxiliary units would help address the insurgency and criminality problems of the province.

He said Local Governments Secretary Jessie Robredo told him the proposal of the city government of Malaybalay to organize a 40-member police auxiliary unit “might be considered” due to the insurgency problem.

Malaybalay City maintains two units of SCAA while the Bukidnon provincial government initiated SCAA in four of its 20 towns with cost shared between the provincial government and the municipal governments. (Walter I. Balane)