South Cotabato Gov. Daisy Avance-Fuentes bared this development as she cautioned the government against possible abuses if it would push through with its plan to provide governors, city and municipal mayors the blanket authority to organize at least “a battalion each” of armed civilian volunteer organization (CVO) members based on the provisions of Executive Order (EO) 546.
EO 546, signed on July 14 by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, specifically mandated the Philippine National Police (PNP) to become an equal partner of the military in fighting insurgency and other security threats, authorized the deputization of CVOs and the use of barangay tanods as “force multipliers” in the campaign to wipe out terrorist threats.
Fuentes, who attended a two-day security forum for Mindanao mayors and governors in Cagayan de Oro City last week, said Local Governments Secretary Ronaldo Puno declared that local chief executives may now organize and accredit one battalion or at least 88 CVO members, provide them with firearms and the authority as deputized members of the PNP.
A report from the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) cited that the country presently has at least 79 provinces, 117 cities and 1,501 municipalities spread across 17 regions.
At this count, some 1,697 battalions of CVOs with an exact strength of 149,336 may soon be deputized as auxiliary policemen throughout the country.
“This could be a big help if these deputized CVOs will really serve their purpose. On the other hand, there’s the possibility that these CVOs would only be used by some politicians to carry out some favors for them,” she told reporters this morning.
Fuentes, who attended another security meeting with the President during her visit to Camiguin last Oct. 19, said she has strong reservations over such plan due to its “unclear mechanisms.”
She said the national government should clarify if it has enough funds for the training, purchase of the needed firearms for the CVOs and the payment of their salaries for at least a year.
Fuentes, the president of the Confederation of Mindanao Governors and Mayors (Confed), stressed that most local government units, especially those in Mindanao, are not capable of meeting such requirements due to budgetary constraints.
“It is very important to ensure the funds for the salaries of these CVOs to avoid the possible scenario of seeing them resorting to criminal activities later on,” she said.
Fuentes said she would only agree with such move if the deputized CVOs would be placed under the direct supervision of the PNP and be taken off the hands of politicians.
She suggested that the PNP should designate one of its policemen to serve as a “cadre” to every CVO unit and its operational mechanism should be patterned after the system being implemented by the Armed Forces of the Philippines to the Citizens Armed Forces Geographical Unit (Cafgu).
“For every CVO team, there should be a PNP member who will lead them and will eventually answer for any abuses that would be committed by his unit,” the governor said.
Puno earlier said that his department and the PNP have been refining the policies for the upcoming operationalization of the CVO units.
He said among these mechanisms is ensuring that members of CVOs will pass the stringent requirements and undergo basic anti-terrorism training before they can be recruited and deputized by the PNP.
“All CVO members would have to be issued identification cards and register with the PNP to be legitimately deputized by the police as force multipliers in the war against terrorism,” he said in a press statement.
Puno added that the CVOs should also “register with the PNP all firearms that may be issued to them and closely coordinate with the police for supervision and reporting.”