S. Cotabato steps up drive vs. terror with new quick response team

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/5 April) – The Philippine National Police (PNP) has created a special team that will spearhead various operations against terrorism and other major criminal activities in this city and other key areas in Region 12 or Southwestern Mindanao.

Senior Supt. Willie Dangane, intelligence chief of the PNP’s Directorate for Integrated Police Operations in Western Mindanao, said Tuesday they established the 10-man quick response team or QRT as part of the continuing buildup of the operational and logistical capabilities of police units in the region.

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

Dangane said the QRT is composed of highly-trained policemen who were earlier selected from local police units.

“The QRT will specifically be called in to handle operations involving major crimes or cases such as bank robberies, kidnapping and acts of terrorism,” he said.

The police official said the QRT members underwent training recently on quick response strategies, especially on handling immediate pursuit operations against crime suspects using their newly-issued motorcycles.

He said they honed the motorcycle driving skills of the team members through simulations of various scenarios and settings during pursuit operations.

Dangane said among the scenarios that the team especially focused on were pursuit operations against motorcycle-riding suspects.

“They were trained on how to effectively run after these motorcycle-riding suspects, especially the proper handling of firearms while they’re aboard the motorcycles,” he said.

Since last year, the city and other neighboring urban areas in the region had been plagued by rising cases of daring killings involving suspects riding in tandem on motorcycles.

In this city, the killings were initially blamed by some residents on the alleged operations of a local death squad but police officials had repeatedly denied the existence of such group.

To address the situation, Mayor Darlene Antonino-Custodio issued an executive order late last year declaring the entire city as a “no firearms zone.”

The city council further strengthened the mayor’s directive with the passage of a gun control ordinance, which prohibits and sets various penalties against the carrying of firearms in business establishments, government-owned buildings and offices as well as major public places. (Allen V. Estabillo / MindaNews)