BCDA directs John Hay guards to be friendly-A A +A
By JM Agreda
Friday, June 29, 2012
GUARDS contracted by the Bases Conversion Development Authority (BCDA) to secure Camp John Hay were told to behave and practice community relations with adjoining 13 barangays.
The order came as complaints from 13 barangays, which are yet to be completely segregated from the former American military reserve, reached BCDA officials. The complainants hit Catalina Security Agency guards who took over Superb Security agency in guarding Camp John Hay last February.
Barangay leaders in a recent inter-agency technical working group meeting on barangay segregation told BCDA officials of their experiences of alleged intimidation and strafing incidents committed by Camp John Hay security guards, who they claimed “lacked training.”
The village leaders who recently formed the Camp John Hay Barangay Segregation Movement also complained of the guards being deployed in their barangays compared to the previous guards who did not enter their areas of jurisdiction.
BCDA president Arnel Paciano Casanova apologized to the villages in behalf of the security agency, and said these issues are seriously being addressed.
Casanova said the immediate takeover of the security agency early this year created misunderstandings between village officials as guards were unfamiliar with the communities they were monitoring.
“Rest assured that as we meet now, we will start in good terms with the barangays,” he said.
JHMC president and Chief Executive Officer Jamie Agabayani said they already ordered a probe into the incidents involving the camp’s security guards.
She said the guards directly identified with the incident and were remiss of their duties were already dismissed.
Agbayani lamented such incidents and assured “the 33 bullets alleged by villagers in Happy Hallow did not come from Camp John Hay guards.
“If ever there was one accidental firing, we are still verifying the facts as these are already in the courts and we could not really talk about the details but I would like to assure the public that this is not the style of our BCDA and John Hay Management Corporation (JHMC) as we are peace loving people. We will never tolerate such incidents if ever these are verified it is true,” she added.
Casanova, meanwhile, said security guards should never have a military mindset, being aware of human rights of residents living inside the reservation. He stressed the guards should have a civilian mindset.
He also denied the militarized training of the Catalina Security Agency, which also secures in Clark, Fort Bonifacio and Villamor Air Base, emphasizing the rules of engagement are clearly laid out with guards as approved by the Philippine National Police.
The BCDA executive also answered complaints of villages against long firearms and heavy artillery carried by guards, saying these are well suited with the forested and rolling terrain of Camp John Hay spanning some 650 hectares.
He said security guards are only tasked to protect Camp John Hay locators and legitimate landowners in barangays inside the former American military reservation from opportunistic individuals as well as professional squatters.
An unprecedented 2000 percent increase in informal settlers was recorded by the BCDA from 1991 to 2001 in adjoining barangays.
This prompted the JHMC to reassess the current situation of land settlements in Camp John Hay through a free structural and utility survey that will pave way to segregation, one of the conditions set by the Baguio City Council in 1991 prior to the camp’s turnover to BCDA, as well as future master planning of villages.
Meantime, in the City Council Monday, committee on human rights and peace order chair Councilor Edison Bilog discussed the incidents that transpired inside Camp John Hay as a result of a public hearing conducted last June 15.
Bilog, in his committee report, recommended for a resolution strongly condemning the acts of Catalina Security Agency furnishing JHMC’s Bids and Awards Committee, as well as immediate reassignment of guards on post.
The committee also requests JHMC to coordinate with the concerned village chiefs before conducting any roving patrols in adjoining barangays and to request the JHMC to require the agency to hire security guards from Baguio or the Cordillera region.
The council, however, failed to act on the committee report and moved for its deferment next Monday as Councilor Nicasio Aliping attempted to come up with a privilege speech about the incident.
However, committee on laws Chair Richard Cariño said a 24-hour notice that Aliping was to render a privilege speech was not followed, moving his speech on the next scheduled City Council session.
Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on June 29, 2012.