Security cooperation stepped up in R12 after bombings, kidnaps

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/18 Nov) – Local officials in Region 12 or Southwestern Mindanao have agreed to step up their security cooperation in the wake of the recent terror attacks and the resurgence of kidnap-for-ransom cases in the region.

Secretary Lualhati Antonino, chair of the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA), said Thursday the region’s local chief executives specifically vowed during a meeting in Davao City last Tuesday to coordinate their pace and order strategies and pool their resources in a bid to further strengthen the government’s security operations in the area.

“They acknowledged the need to unify their security efforts to effectively resolve the lingering security problems in the area, especially the recent bombings and kidnapping activities,” she said in a radio interview.

Antonino said the meeting, which she joined along with Interior and Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo, was attended by governors Arthur Pingoy Jr. of South Cotabato, Miguel Rene Dominguez of Sarangani, Suharto Mangudadatu of Sultan Kudarat, Lala Talino-Mendoza of North Cotabato and General Santos City Mayor Darlene Antonino-Custodio.

Region 12 covers the provinces of South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani, North Cotabato and the cities of General Santos.

During the meeting, Antonino said the chief executives raised various security-related issues to Robredo that needs immediate and more focused attention from the Philippine National Police (PNP) and other law enforcement agencies.

Among the recent incidents discussed in the meeting were the bomb attacks in North Cotabato and Cotabato City and the kidnappings in South Cotabato and Cotabato City.

Last Sunday, a businesswoman who owns a grocery store and a fleet of passenger vans from Sto. Niño town in South Cotabato was seized by a group of armed men in a daring raid that resulted to killing of a store helper and the wounding of the victim’s husband.

Police and military units in Sultan Kudarat and South Cotabato provinces have launched joint search and rescue operations for victim Grace Eleuterio, whom the kidnappers initially offered to release in exchange for a P10-million ransom.

Since August, two other members of the Chinese-Filipino business community were kidnapped separately in Cotabato City but were later released after reportedly paying ransom.

A Chinese-Filipino businessman here was kidnapped by several armed men earlier this month but was safely rescued several hours by pursuing police operatives in the outskirts of the city.

Last Monday, the region was rocked anew by a bomb blast in Carmen, North Cotabato that left a person dead and two others injured.

A bomb planted inside a passenger bus unit of the Rural Transit exploded last October 21 while the vehicle was traversing Matalam town, killing 11 people and injured more than 20 others.

“There was an intensive exchange of views on how to resolve or address these problems but overall we zeroed in on the need to further intensify the security-related activities in the area that are being implemented by the PNP and the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines),” said Antonino, who was a former three-term representative of the first congressional district of South Cotabato.

On the part of the local governments, she said they agreed to coordinate all security and intelligence operations in their respective areas as well as their monitoring on the presence or movements of terrorist elements and other lawless armed groups.

“Addressing these security issues is no longer just a concern of the affected local government. Each LGU (local government unit) has to contribute in whatever capacity to make sure that the entire Region 12 will be properly secured,” Antonino added. (Allen V. Estabillo / MindaNews)