DILG Sec. to ARMM officials: Do your job or face sanctions PDF Print E-mail
Sunday, 16 January 2011 14:52

Interior and Local Government Secretary Jesse M. Robredo during his visit to this city this week announced that he is creating a special team in his department to run after absentee officials amid the spike of the criminalities in some of parts of Mindanao.

He said local government officials, who are frequently out or absent in their areas, will now face harsher penalties, including suspension.

“It’s time for us to discipline our LGUs (local government units),” he told top officials of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) during the Galing Pook Awards on Monday, January 10.

He said there is a need for government presence in light of rampant violence that has been occurring particularly in the island provinces of the Basilan and Sulu.

It has been noted that many officials, particularly those from the island-provinces of Basilan, Sulu, and Taw-Tawi maintain residences in neighboring big cities.

Robredo said he has noted several complaints against local government officials who fail to do their job since they are always out in their areas of responsibility.

“There is no denying that many LGUs in the ARMM have still to make major changes and be consistent with their efforts in order to alleviate their level of governance to universally accepted standards,” he said.

Even as Sec. Robredo was meeting with ARMM officials, five traders who are selling bed foams were ambushed and killed in Basilan province.

At present, bandits, believed to be members of the Abu-Sayyaf and other unidentified armed groups are still holding three kidnapped victims, according to Col. Randolph G. Cabangbang, spokesperson of the Western Mindanao Command (WestMinCom).

He said to strengthen measures to stop criminalities particularly in southwestern Mindanao areas, government has created a joint peace and security coordinating committee, which is composed of all Navy, Air Force, Army, Marines, and different divisions of the police.

“There is really a need for proper coordination between these units to effectively enforce the law,” Cabangbang said.

He said authorities have noted the increase of “enterprising gangs,” who are into kidnapping and extortion activities.

“These mafia-style groups opted to snatch average people for them to surely collect a ransom,” he said, referring to the different pattern that kidnap syndicates resorted in recent months.

Kidnapping of individuals in southwestern Mindanao is not uncommon. For the past years bandits have been seizing not only rich and prominent personalities but even average persons in area.

Robredo said the good leadership of local governments in concerned areas is vital to end on the cycle of conflict and hostilities that have been occurring for decades.

Meanwhile, civil society groups in Basilan have urged government security forces to disarm civilians who possess firearms to prevent further violence in the highly troubled area.

Basilan Bishop Martin Jumoad, who has been very vocal in criticizing the local government units and security enforcers for their failure to protect civilians from being kidnapped and murdered by armed men, said loose firearms pose a threat to the populations.

“Again, I’m asking the military to really protect the civilians. And one way of doing that would be to really disarm the civilians carrying guns in the province,” he said in a statement published on the Catholic Web site UCANEWS.

Jaime J. A. Rivera, secretary general and executive director of the Basilan Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Inc. said that some civilians opted to carry firearms for protections.

“We understand the Bishop’s stand, but we believe that disarming civilians will not be an effective solution. So as long as rebels and their criminal proxies, as well as politicians, and private armies remain, then disarming of civilians will only take away the last defense of people against the lawless or the powerful and abusive,” he said.

Local violence has aggravated access to basic services in rural areas, sinking the people into deeper poverty that in turn breed more violence, Rivera said

“This is the first time that we just feel like nobody's doing anything to curb the criminality that's just gone haywire since the last quarter of 2010. And the authorities just seem to be paralyzed from the brain, down,” he said, referring to the spike of criminalities in the area. -- Darwin Wally T. Wee/Peace Advocates Zamboanga