PNP: Criminalize Private Armed Groups

ADMITTING that it is facing difficulty in its campaign against private armed groups (PAGs), the Philippine National Police (PNP) has urged Congress to pass a law criminalizing membership in those groups.

PNP chief Director General Raul Bacalzo said criminalizing the membership to PAGs will give more teeth to police efforts to dismantle them, some of which are maintained by politicians.

“There is no law today that will make you criminally liable for being a member of a private armed group… I think that is still to be defined by the legislature,” Bacalzo said during a forum of the Manila Overseas Press Club (MOPC)in Makati City Wednesday night.

The PNP chief quickly added that they are not making excuses for the continued presence of PAG’, especially in far-flung areas, but maintained that they are exerting all of their efforts in the campaign against them.

“The most that the police can do here is to seek, find and collect firearms and file cases of illegal possession of firearms, which is a bailable offense,” Bacalzo said.

The only time that a PAGs member could be put behind bars if he or she is facing or has warrant of arrests for other form of criminal offenses such as murder or committed another crime, Bacalzo said.

The PNP chief said the Senarosa commission, which investigated root causes of the proliferations of PAGs in different parts of the country following the infamous Maguindanao massacre last year, saw the need for a law against PAGs.

“The Senarosa commission recommends to some legislative measures to cure these constraints, so to speak,” Bacalzo said.

The PNP chief said that to date, there are still 86 PAGs in country. These figure usually doubles up during elections, he added. Anthony Vargas

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