Malaybalay bankrolls local paramilitary forces

The City Government of Malaybalay signed a memorandum of agreement with the Army's 403rd Infantry Brigade for the training and operation of 80 personnel to be dispatched to two detachments.
Mayor Florencio T. Flores Jr. told MindaNews the city government only responded to the invitation of the army for a permanent force in the city's Upper Pulangui area and in Pat-pat village against communist rebels.

Flores spoke at the opening of the 45-day training on January 5 at the Camp Osito Bahian here.

The military's assessment, he said, called for the formation of the SCAA to help maintain peace and order in the city.

"We need a blocking force there," Flores said.

Patpat and neighboring villages and eight barangays in the remote Upper Pulangui district in Bukidnon's boundary with Agusan del Sur have been venue to encounters between the Army and communist rebels.

Flores said the city's SCAA is the first to be put up in Bukidnon. He clarified he has no political intention in forming the SCAA amid rumors in the barangays that the third-termer mayor is running for a seat in Congress in 2010.

"It is not in my plans, it's not in the drawing board," he said.

Flores could not give the exact budget for the SCAA as of press time but he said they intend to keep the forces "as long as they are needed in the areas".

The forces would be divided into two detachments, half of them to be assigned in Upper Pulangui and the other half in the city's northeastern barangays.

Lt. Col. Cresencio Maligmat, commanding officer of the army's 23rd Infantry Battalion, said the formation of SCAAs was encouraged by the military to augment regular forces.

 "This is because we lack budget to keep regular CAFGUs" ( Citizens Armed Forces Geographical Unit), he said.

He said the SCAA works the same as the regular CAFGU, only that they are financed by the local government unit or private entity.

He said the MOA provides that the Army will take charge of the training, provision of arms, and supply of ammunitions while the city government takes charge of the "subsistence allowance," incentives like clothing, and death benefit.

Maligmat said roughly the city government's budget amounts to P1.5 million per year for 40 personnel or at least P3 million for the 80 personnel.

Councilor Jimmy Gellor, city council committee on peace and order chair, said they have expedited approval of legislation needed for the project.

But he did not say why the program was delayed.

The resolution, passed in August last year, allotted P1.49 million for five months to cover clothing allowance and honorarium, including rice subsidies for the volunteers from August to December 2008. (Walter I. Balane/MindaNews)