ISABELA CITY, Basilan -- The military will focus on dismantling the existing private armed groups in Western Mindanao during the election period, an official said Tuesday.

Lieutenant General Benjamin Mohammad Dolorfino, Western Mindanao Command (Wesmincom) chief, said there are 26 existing private armed groups within Wesmincom’s area of responsibility that stretches from Tawi-Tawi to Misamis Occidental and Lanao provinces.

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“That (dismantling of private armed groups) will be our main focus. We will show that we really mean business this time,” he said.

He did not disclose though how many private armed groups are based in each of the provinces in his area of jurisdiction, except in saying that four groups are based in Basilan province.

He said that they will give the private armed groups a chance to voluntarily surrender their firearms to avoid facing the might of the military troops.

“All they have to do is to turn over their firearms to the religious leaders in their respective community,” Dolorfino said, citing they will tap the assistance of the religious leaders.

He said the private armed groups that will not voluntarily surrender their firearms will be dealt with accordingly by the Wesmincom.