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Davao del Sur execs divided over planned revival of vigilante group.

Byline: Eldie Aguirre, Orlando Dinoy

AMDIGOS CITY -- The proposal to revive the anti-communist vigilante group Alsa Masa has divided officials of this province even though Gov. Claude Bautista has said this would be temporary.

Talk of reviving the Alsa Masa, which grew spontaneously and was credited with driving the New People's Army's away from Davao City and surrounding areas in the 1980s, was first floated by Mayor Franco Magno Calida of Hagonoy, Davao del Sur.

Calida, who was chief of the Philippine Constabulary's Davao City Metropolitan Command then, was openly supportive of the Alsa Masa and was blamed for the killings of dozens of suspected communist rebels and supporters in Davao's Agdao district believed to be carried out by vigilantes.

"If I need to revive vigilantism in this part of the province I'll do it just to restore peace and order," Calida said in the aftermath of the March 2 landmine explosion in Bansalan, Davao del Sur that wounded four civilian rescue workers.

He made a similar statement following an NPA attack on the Matanao town police station.

During a recent meeting with mayors and other officials of the province, Bautista indicated that he was in favor of the revival of the vigilante group. But he said that if ever the Alsa Masa is revived, it should be disbanded as soon as it has driven the rebels out of the province.

"If we will not take action now, we should expect more attacks, where more lives will be lost," he said.

Senior Supt. Michael John Dubria, Davao del Sur police director, said there was indeed a need for closer cooperation between the authorities and civilians to put an end to alleged NPA atrocities.

"They have targeted civilians and they have become evil. All evil things must be put to an end," Dubria said.

But Digos City Mayor Joseph PeA+-as said there was no need to revive the anti-communist group because "it is the job of the Army to run after (the NPA) in the mountains."

"It could not be denied that we are facing threats from various groups but it could not justify the wish of some people to adopt vigilantism, such as the resurrection of the dreaded Alsa Masa," he said.

"Of course, maintaining peace and order is not just the job of the military and the police; we need the cooperation of the entire community. But there's no need for armed vigilantes roaming our city," he said.

Other mayors said they were reserving their comments for the moment but several others, who did not want to be identified by name, said the proposal to revive the Alsa Masa should be studied well.

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Publication:Philippines Daily Inquirer (Makati City, Philippines)
Geographic Code:9PHIL
Date:Mar 25, 2014
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