Military vows to ‘wipe out’ private armed groups in Samar

TACLOBAN CITY – The Philippine Army’s 8th Infantry Division has vowed to eradicate private armies in Samar provinces following recent killings and firefights with government troops involving armed men allegedly hired by local politicians.

Maj. Gen. Edgardo de Leon, commander of the Army’s 8th Infantry Division, said on Wednesday the fight against private armed groups (PAGs) will be relentless as they work on ensuring peaceful and orderly elections this year.

“We will be steadfast in dealing with private armed groups by enforcing election laws so that everyone will peacefully exercise their rights to vote. We will be relentless in hunting private armies,” the military official said in a phone interview.

The official asked the Army’s 3rd Infantry Battalion, the newly-assigned unit in the region to make dismantling of private armies a priority.

The battalion, assigned to eradicate insurgents in Davao City for six years, is considered the region's maneuver battalion.

De Leon made the pronouncement after soldiers encountered with PAGs in Calbayog City, Samar on Tuesday.

Joint operatives from the police and Army clashed with PAGs members in remote Langoyon village while serving a warrant of arrest to a certain Joanne de Alagdon, who recently escaped from Samar sub-provincial jail.

Alagdon, who is facing murder charges, and two other unknown companions fired upon the troops, causing an armed confrontation. No one was hurt from both sides.

On Sunday, three men heading to a cockfight were shot dead in an ambuscade in remote Roxas village of Santa Margarita town.

The Philippine National Police initially identified the attackers as the Managaysay group, a known PAG in Samar.

In a Facebook post, a mayoralty candidate claimed that the victims were his political supporters. (PNA)