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The Crucial Role of SOSIA: Supervising Security Agencies

Police Chief Supt. Samuel Diciano is no ordinary man. His hands are full, working as chief of the Supervisory Office for Security and Investigation Agencies (SOSIA) of the Philippine National Police. He has the noble responsibility of regulating and harnessing the potential of hundreds of security guards and their reputable agencies nationwide. This includes monitoring their needs, airing their complaints, and listening to their concerns. His existence is valuable, with a goal of letting all systems go while improving the old process in security guard enterprises.

Diciano, a graduate of the Philippine Military Academy, says, “I deal with more than half a million security guards nationwide”. He further adds, “They guard the stores and shops 24 hours a day. We help provide their needs by means of regulating the benefits they deserve in the workplace. If they lack training, experience delayed salary or whenever their guns are not renewed, how can they work efficiently and effectively?”

Certainly, many security guards are like policemen. They guard establishments, schools, and sometimes assist in traffic enforcement. Some are assigned to take care of the streets, power plants, and mining firms in far-flung areas. “Without them, policemen can not function well,”  he says.

Challenges of Security Guards

What are the common problems that security guards face? How does Diciano deal with them? From 2006 to 2010, about 801 security guard firms failed to renew their licenses to operate, 157 of the companies were issued cease to operate (CTO) orders, and 13 firms got license cancellations.

To warn the security guard firms about the existing regulations, Diciano issued a Letter of Instruction (LOI), popularly known as LOI Siyasat, which is designed to inform all existing private security agencies (PSAs), company guard forces (CGFs), government guard units (GGUs), and private detective agencies (PDAs) nationwide about the new policies being implemented and subsequently identify security agencies operating without permits, with expired or renewed license to operate, or those with CTO orders.

Through this measure, SOSIA updates its list of accredited PSAs nationwide and conducts aggressive operations against delinquent security agencies through administrative and post-to-post operations. He observes that despite such stern stance, many agencies continue to operate even if they fail to meet the minimum requirement of employing about 200 security guards.

Provisions for Security Guards’ Welfare

In collaboration with the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), Diciano has ordered the regional officers to inspect whether the security guards are getting the standard benefits that they are entitled to. This drive is being implemented by seeking the assistance of the Philippine Association of Detective and Protective Agency Operators (PADPAO), the umbrella organization of 3,000 private security agencies and company guard forces operating nationwide, which undertakes regional visits and identifies whether security agencies comply with the rules and regulations of the SOSIA.

Such order came from earlier reports that some security guards are being paid below minimum wage and deducted with taxes that are not being remitted to the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR), their contributions are not being given to the Social Security System (SSS). Many view this as the start of an unfair competition, a way of defrauding the government of revenues and posing a threat to peace and order.

Cut-throat Competition

With the cut-throat practice among security agencies, many guards are helpless and are willing to accept below minimum wage just to get work. As this occurs, the quality of their services deteriorates. He says,  “It is possible that the lowly paid guards are the ones who will be stealing from their assigned establishments.”

However, he stresses that not all security agencies have expired licenses. There are still many security firms that are legitimate and are owned by businessmen and private citizens. “Some do their best to ensure that the security guards they employ are provided with all the benefits they deserve and are properly compensated.”

The implementation of the regulations is a very clear message that unscrupulous activities and frequent violators have no business in the security industry, he said. SOSIA is willing to help security agencies become business-friendly to their clients, he added.

Improved Operations

For the security guards, Diciano dreams a better life for them. He believes in their work protecting the ordinary citizens toward a safe and secure community.

He aspires to make SOSIA a very efficient organization by embracing the use of technology through the computerization process. This is his vision when he took his reign as chief in January. “We will do away with manual processes that create delays in the documentation or issuance of licenses to the security guards. Automation is the key,” he says.

Initial Steps

Established in April 2011, he and his team have started setting up computers in the security agency regional offices. With this new program, he believes this would lighten the burden of submitting agency reports.It is also more economical when preparing monthly disposition reports, weekly reports and correspondences, letters of authority to conduct training, management of student guard information, security updates and memoranda, license verifications, free agents’ list and helpline hotlines.

Using the old system, he says, could be very costly. Providing food and accommodation should be considered during his stay in a regional office. Unlike if reports are submitted online, agencies would only pay for the computer and equipment maintenance, and only cost around Php 100 a month. Other benefits include the use of expensive software system with low manpower and administrative costs.

Reducing Corruption

Diciano notes that with the new online system, graft and corruption is reduced. “For example, when a submitted report via mail gets lost, you tend to pay under the table to get your paperwork done in an instant. This practice is very inefficient and is prone to graft and corruption.”

The automated process allows the security guards, especially those whose assignments are outside Metro Manila to check whether their SSS, Pag-Ibig, and PhilHealth contributions were remitted, or whether their license needs renewal. Online documentation also helps to identify whether several security agencies are habitual violators.

He hopes by next month, SOSIA will be completely automated and fully operational nationwide. “As a national support office of PNP, SOSIA needs to effectively supervise and regulate all personnel involved in the industry.”

Longer Expiration

Instead of two years, the security guard and all security personnel licenses will have an expiration date of three years. “It will be costly for the guards to renew their licenses every two years,” he says. Also, security guards have to take a leave from work and have to spend a month or two months salary to complete the process.

SOSIA  will soon open a new four-year course in college that will cater solely to those who want to work in the security industry. “Talks are already in place so that those who want to study, can enroll.”

First published in the Guards & Agencies section of Volume 1 Issue No.6 of SecurityMatters Magazine – Print Edition