Samar Dynasts Unite Against Private Armies
Politicians from Samar have crossed party lines to neutralize private armed groups throughout the province, but particularly in the capital Calbayog City, officials said Wednesday.
Samar Rep. Edgar Sarmiento and Calbayog City Mayor Ronaldo Aquino, both politically at odds with Samar Gov. Sharee Anne Tan-Delos Santos and family, together with the mayors of the towns of Gandara, San Jorge, Matuguinao and Sta. Margarita have signed a covenant declaring their commitment to support ongoing efforts by the Armed Forces of the Philippines to dismantle private armed groups in the province.
During the signing of the covenant last week, Tan-Delos Santos hoped the creation of Cagamas would check the proliferation of private armed groups in the province where previous campaigns have failed.
The AFP and the PNP have formed a Joint Task Force called Cagasmas aimed at disarming and dismantling private armed groups in Samar, previously known as western Samar.
The Joint Task Force was created following an appeal of Sarmiento who sent a letter and a manifesto to the PNP and AFP leadership calling for an end to the rash of killings allegedly perpetrated by private armed groups in the province, particularly in Calbayog City.
Sarmiento said in just six weeks since August, six barangay officials have been killed by armed groups in Calbayog City.
Police Regional Office 8 Director C/Supt. Elmer Beltejar said the joint task force would lead to the creation of so-called “focus units” whose sole mission was to hunt down the private armed groups in Samar, particularly in Calbayog City.
Along with the launching of Cagasmas, which covers Calbayog and the towns of Gandara, San Jorge, Matuguinao and Sta. Margarita, was the signing of a peace covenant among local government officials to support and cooperate with the task force in their campaign to end the existence of private armed groups in Samar.