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ZAMBOANGA DEL NORTE, Philippines – The Army’s 97th Infantry Battalion placed eight militiamen under camp restrictions after a town mayor and the provincial board complained about their alleged use as security aides by a candidate for barangay chairman in Tampilisan town, Zamboanga del Norte.
Lieutenant Colonel Nolasco Coderos, the commander of the 97th IB, said on Wednesday, October 25, that they were investigating the complaint, and he assured that the eight members of the Citizens Armed Forces Geographical Unit (CAFGU) would remain confined to their barracks for the duration of the election period.
This action followed Tampilisan Mayor Norabeth Carloto filing a complaint with the Sangguniang Panlalawigan (SP) regarding the CAFGU members for allegedly serving as security escorts for a village politician in Barangay Tilubog. The incident was captured on video.
The provincial board subsequently passed a resolution asking the 97th IB to investigate and monitor the militiamen.
The 97th IB earlier directed CAFGUs under it to be confined to the barracks during the election period, but local officials said some militiamen still managed to go out to provide security to a candidate.
However, Coderos noted that the video alone is inconclusive. “We are currently examining it. There is a lot of information emerging nowadays just to discredit someone or some group, so we must be very cautious,” he said.
Provincial Election Officer Jossil Macute reported the matter to Coderos as well.
Macute said Coderos assured that charges would be filed if they found that there was a violation and may even recommend the disbandment of the three SCAA groups in Zamboanga del Norte.
Carloto filed a complaint with the SP through Board Member Conkee Buctuan about the incident. She claimed it occurred between 3 pm and 4 pm on October 21 in the remote Barangay Tilubog.
Carloto said she confronted the SCAAs between 3 pm and 4 pm on October 21, and one of them told her that they were merely ordered to escort the candidate.
“I later found out that they were escorting Amanrio Tautuan, a candidate for barangay captain in Tilubog,” she told Rappler on October 24.
“I can’t understand why they did that… We are peaceful here, and they are obviously favoring some candidates,” Carloto said.
Provincial Board Member Michael Documento, chairman of the SP Committee on Peace and Order, said they were informed that an armed group, believed to be members of the Special CAFGU Active Auxiliary (SCAA), has been seen patrolling the hinterlands of Salug and Kalawit towns.
The provincial government has been helping the military by providing allowances to the SCAA members.
But Documento expressed his concerns about this because the militiamen were susceptible to being used for political purposes.
Provincial Administrator Wilberth Magallanes said he was unaware of the Tilubog incident and did not know Tautuan.
“Our responsibility is solely for the allowance and provisions of our SCAAs, but operational control still rests with the cadre battalion, the 97th IB,” Magallanes told Rappler. – Rappler.com