The Philippine National Police said seven regions have been tagged as having active and potential private armed groups ahead of the Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan Elections (BSKE) this year.
In a related development, PNP chief Gen. Benjamin Acorda on Monday said anti-drug units across the country will continue to be operational, as he reiterated the need for a strict vetting of personnel assigned to these offices.
“The PNP is also monitoring continuously the activities of 48 private armed groups wherein three of these groups are active and 45 potential PAGs from Region 1, Region 3, Region 5, Region 6, Region 13, Cordillera Administrative Region, and Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao,” Acorda said in a press briefing.
Acorda said the PNP received reports that some elected officials are receiving threats ahead of the polls.
“I would like to reiterate my directive to all regional directors to intensify the campaign against these groups and ensure that they will not be utilized in the upcoming barangay and SK elections,” he added.
On the so-called “ninja cops,” Acorda said the tight screening of police officers assigned to units under the PNP Drug Enforcement Group is part of measures to overhaul its operations.
“We will really check who should be placed in each unit and offices. After studying, there are other aspects that we saw that became a problem. We saw that the problem that became more of the personnel,” he said.
“It’s not on the office but the personnel so what we wanted to do is the proper vetting of personnel, continuous monitoring, and continuous
background investigation on them to make sure that our personnel don’t go left just walk straight. It’s more of vetting rather than
recalling,” Acorda said.
This came amid earlier proposals to dissolve the 17 special operations units (SOUs) of the PDEG following the involvement of some of its
members in the recycling and pilferage of illegal drugs confiscated in operations.
Concerned regional directors were already given the orders to intensify efforts against private armed groups to ensure a safe and peaceful BSKE in October.
Other than the threat of PAGs, the PNP said it is also monitoring 430 barangay officials, including 115 barangay captains and 316 barangay
councilors, for possible involvement in the illegal drug trade.
Acorda said mandatory drug testing is not among the requirements for the BSKE aspirants, but the national police welcome any candidates
willing to undergo voluntary drug testing.
“This is a magnanimous manifestation of the individual candidate’s support of the national anti-illegal drugs campaign and should be
recognized by constituents as a personal display of leadership by example, especially among SK candidates who represent the youth
sector,” he said.
Meanwhile, the PNP warned candidates for this year’s BSKE not to give in to the extortion demands of lawless elements such as the Communist
Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) via their “permit to campaign” and “permit to win” during polls.
“Let me caution candidates who will fall for this election racket of the CPP-NPA that any form of monetary or material support to the
CPP-NPA, a terrorist organization, is tantamount to ‘terrorist financing’ that is punishable under Republic Act No. 11479 or the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020. And if the donor or giver is an incumbent Barangay or SK official, the crime is further aggravated by willful disloyalty to their oath of office,” Acorda said.
The COC filing period for the 2023 BSKE will be from Aug. 28 to Sept. 2.