COTABATO CITY (MindaNews/25 April) – Military, police and local officials today announced the revival of Task Force Kutawao that will secure the city and its environs against terrorism, kidnapping and proliferation of illegal drugs.
Major Gen. Arnel dela Vega, 6th Infantry Division commander, named Colonel Jose Gongona as Task Force Kutawato head.
The task force will be augmented by Civilian Armed Force Geographical Unit in the coming days.
“This is in line with the AFP’s development support and security plan as suggested by President Duterte,” dela Vega said of the task force’s creation.
In the 1990s, Task Force Kutawato was first established to contain the rash of kidnapping for ransom cases by organized crime groups preying on Filipino-Chinese traders.
“This is timely because of the government’s no non-sense campaign against terrorism and extremism,” Mayor Cynthia Guiani-Sayadi who first pushed for the idea of reviving the special task force.
Cotabato City has been subjected to dozens of terror attacks, including the mayor in 2014.
She stressed that the city has a fast growing economy and accompanying it was rising criminality and peace and order issues that would affect the business climate if left unattended.
From a mere 5- to 7-percent, annual economic growth had increased to 20 percent per year since 2003.
Since last year, crime rate was down due to massive campaign by the police and military but Guiani-Sayadi said terror and kidnapping for ransom threats have remained.
“We cannot discount criminal activities will thrive due to growing population and economic activities,” she said.
“We need to increase and upgrade our security and to ensure we are ahead from lawless elements,” she added.
The task force revival has the support of religious leaders, village officials and the business community.
As a start-up mobility requirement, the city government turned over six motorbikes to the task force for its patrolling activities in the city’s 37 villages. (Ferdinandh Cabrera/MindaNews)