MANILA -- An official from the Armed Forces of the Philippines reiterated that the armed group allegedly involved in crimes in Surigao del Sur is not connected to the military.
AFP Eastern Mindanao Command chief Lt. Gen. Aurelio Baladad made the statement following the call of Surigao del Sur Governor Jonny Pimentel for the military to "disband and disarm" the Magahat/Bagani Force.
Pimentel said the Bagani forces are responsible for killing three civilians in Lianga, Surigao del Sur last week.
Aside from the recent incident, Pimentel also tagged the paramilitary group in similar incidents in the province over the past six years. He called on the army to disband and disarm the group, since the military helped in creating the group.
"It's not part of our command and control," said Baladad of the Magahat/Bagani Force. "What's part of our command and control is the CAFGU (Citizen Armed Force Geographical Unit). This is not a CAFGU. This (Mahagat/Bagani) is not sanctioned, this not under any law."
"But we will investigate if the claim of the government is true and if found true, then we will impose sanctions against our commanders or units. We have an ongoing internal investigation also regarding this matter," added Baladad.
The official said the Mahagat/Bagani Force is part of the indigenous political structure.
"All indigenous people here, if we look at it, every tribes have their own Bagani," the official said.
Bagani is the term of indigenous people for "tribal warrior."
Baladad assured that the military also wants to disband and disarm the group behind the atrocity, which resulted in the death of three civilians, including Emerito "Emok" Samarka, executive director of the Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development Cooperative.
"We will support that call (to disband and disarm the group)…We treat them as people who committed a criminal act so we have to run after them…We do not sanction them, we condemn the killing of the civilians there," said Baladad, adding that law enforcement operations are ongoing against the suspects.
He also said the PNP-led and military-supported law enforcement operation is meant to protect the community from any further atrocity by the group.
"We are pursuing these perpetrators for the crime they've done. We are are supporting the PNP in the conduct of the law enforcement operation. They have to be held accountable for their crime," Martnez also said.
Baladad also disclosed that at least 2,000 people have been displaced by the incident, mostly in the sitio in Barangay Diatagon where the burning and killing took place. He said the other evacuees are from the outlying areas.