ZAMBOANGA CITY: Various sectors and civil society groups have thrown their support to the efforts of the provincial government and local authorities to address to the peace and order situation in Sulu.

Vice Gov. Abdusakur Tan of Sulu presided over the meeting of the Provincial Peace and Order Council (PPOC) where different measures to curtail the activities of criminal groups were discussed, according to the Sulu Area Coordination Center (SACC).

The council reported that some of the immediate actions that are being considered are increasing police visibility and security checkpoints and the installing closed circuit television cameras in various towns in the province.

Town mayors and representatives of various government agencies and law enforcement units, including the business and religious sectors attended the cited meeting.

Appeal for vigilance

Authorities have also appealed to the public to cooperate and be vigilant in their day-to-day activities.

“Please report to authorities any suspicious persons or activities in your community. Your cooperation in crime prevention is very important,” the SACC said.

It added: “The relentless barrage of evil acts by lawless and dubious elements against peace-loving communities of Sulu can never cow the Tausug residents and their authorities to stoop down to mimic their ill-fated ways. Some call for oppressive interventions, in clear endorsement to imitate their preferred style, as a mean for reprisal against those criminals. But Sulu’s leadership and its network of allies for peace and development will never ever deviate from the rule of law and respect for human rights that is the better option.”

“The nemeses are the culprits, not the authorities, no matter deficiencies may have been committed by those in the front line. Help them to be stronger and more effective, not help lawless to strike them down. All are in agreement that more solid actions must be taken, though the current leadership has never been remiss in the collective resolve to combat lawlessness,” the coordinating body said.

The SACC—established during the administration of former Gov. Sakur Tan of Sulu—is where various agencies converge to address issues, resolve conflicts and find the best solutions to current problems besetting the province. Local government officials head the council while military and police officials sit as members.

The council is a facility established as a proactive, reactive, and post-conflict mechanism to address various concerns at regional and local levels of governance and to solve problems of coordination and response.

The SACC also functions both as a system and as a council for planning, integrating, directing, supervising, and implementing line-up government programs and projects particularly on political, socioeconomic, cultural, religious, development, security and information issues.

The province has a total of 20 Area Coordinating Centers—one for each of Sulu’s 19 towns and the central headquarters in Patikul town.

Anti-kidnapping task force

Earlier in February, police authorities said it up a Special Anti-Kidnapping Task Force to address the threats of kidnappings and abductions in Sulu.

Gov. Abdusakur “Totoh” Tan Jr. said that the creation of the anti-kidnapping task force by the police is long overdue “if we take into consideration the spate of incidences in the province, but nevertheless, as they say, better late than never.”

Tan has previously said that many kidnapped victims were taken from other provinces and cities only to bring and hide them in Sulu, dragging the province to a situation that leaves a bad impression on the local peace and order situation.

Black propaganda

However, while local government officials and various sectors work endeavor to address the rising criminality and the threats posed primarily by the Abu Sayyaf, different quarters have engaged in spreading “black propaganda” in social media to further scare the public and destroy the reputation of different leaders in Sulu.

Police chief Abraham Orbita confirmed the spread of black propaganda, but said this will not affect law enforcement operations in Sulu.

“There is a sudden and massive disinformation campaign and a lot of false reports being spread by unscrupulous people,” he told the regional newspaper Mindanao Examiner.

Orbita said that they will continue to protect the citizens from lawless groups and urged locals to support the campaign by helping authorities in providing information about suspicious persons in their community.