The governor of Davao del Sur urged residents to organize anew the anti-communist vigilante group Alsa Masa in the aftermath of two guerrilla attacks on two remote towns last week.
While the Army here endorsed the move, a ranking police official cautioned against forming an armed vigilante group to avoid creating more security problems.
Davao del Sur Gov. Claude Bautista publicly endorsed on Tuesday the organization of Alsa Masa in the province to counter another outbreak of guerrilla attacks. He made the endorsement in a meeting with the mayors.
He called a meeting after the New People’s Army guerrillas raided the police station in Matanao town, killing two policemen and wounding three others. Seven soldiers were killed in the pursuit operations after the truck they were riding was blasted by a land mine that the rebels planted.
The NPA suffered two dead and the Army claimed it captured nine others.
The NPA raid came only three days after it ambushed an Army patrol in a remote village in Bansalan, also in the province. An Army attempt to retrieve its 11 wounded soldiers in the evening was met by a land mine explosion that damaged three ambulances.
Maj. Gen. Ariel Bernardo, commander of the 10th Infantry Division, said he supported the governor’s plan to form the Alsa Masa.
He said this was the appropriate move of the province to thwart any other guerrilla moves in the area. He said he did not see any wrong in it.
However, Chief Supt. Wency Pascual, regional police commander, that while he was amenable to the plan, he cautioned any action to arm any vigilante, warning that an armed vigilante group could cause more trouble.
Pascual said he would support an unarmed Alsa Masa.
The Alsa Masa was formed in Davao City in the middle of the 1980s to counter the growing presence of NPA urban guerrillas, locally known as the Sparrow Unit.
At the height of Sparrow Unit operations in Davao City, at least two policemen, many of them just directing vehicular traffic or helping children cross the street, were gunned down by the communsit rebels daily.
Davao del Sur formed its counterpart armed vigilante group called Nakasaka.
In forming the Alsa Masa, the government military also tested the effectiveness of an armed vigilante group as a frontline unit to counter the NPA partisan actions. Local and international human-rights organizations documented several cases of civil-rights abuses, including forced disappearances, arbitrary killings and beheadings, prompting the government to disband both vigilante groups years later, when the Sparrow Unit problem had subsided.