This article is organised as follows:
- Part 01: Background to the Philippines Presidential Security Group (PSG).
- Part 02: Organisation of the PSG.
- Part 03: Miscellaneous.
PART ONE: BACKGROUND
This article provides an overview of the Presidential Security Group, an elite joint service unit of both civilian agents and seconded servicemen from the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) sworn to protect the President of the Philippines.
The Presidential Security Group is known by a number of nicknames including: PSG; The President’s Guards; Presidential Guards; Filipino Secret Service; Men in Barong; and PSG Troopers.
Although considered an elite unit, it does not form part of the Armed Forces of the Philippines Special Operations Command (AFPSOCOM).
Part One of this article looks at women and the PSG, then discusses the difference between tier 1 and tier 2 forces and highlights the methods of entry. It then outlines the roles and tasks of the PSG before finally providing a brief history on its origins. Part Two looks at the organisation of the PSG, identifies some key personalities, before moving on to outline the various units. Finally, Part Three provides some useful links and documentaries, and identifies other articles the reader may find useful.
The aim of this article is to provide an overview of the Presidential Security Group.
1.2 Women and the PSG
Women can join the PSG.
1.3 Tier 1 and Tier 2 Special Forces
The PSG does not form part of the APF Special Operations Command and is not considered a Special Operations Force (SOF) unit, although it is considered an elite unit within the Philippines.
Some units are referred to as ‘Tier 1’ SF units because they are the units usually tasked with direct action. Other SOF are referred to as ‘Tier 2’ units as they, usually, fulfil a supporting role for the Tier 1 units.
1.4 Method of Entry
Civilians cannot join the PSG directly, one must join an appropriate agency first and then apply.
1.5 Roles and Tasks
The Presidential Security Group is the lead agency tasked with (COA, 2009; Bicol Standard, 2016):
- Providing security to:
- The current President of the Philippines and their immediate families;
- The current Vice President of the Philippines and their immediate families;
- Ex-Presidents and their immediate families (for life);
- Ex-Vice Presidents and their immediate families (for life); and
- Visiting heads of states and governments, VIP’s, diplomats, and/or Cabinet Members (and their families travelling with them) as directed by the President.
- Securing the President’s residences, offices, and the places of Presidential engagements and its environs.
- Continuous surveillance and monitoring activities while assisting in the enforcement of internal security rules and regulations.
- Maintenance of peace and order in Malacañang Palace (the Seat of Government) and its facilities.
- Rendering honours to the President and other dignitaries.
The PSG also have other functions, such as:
- Providing support to other government agencies.
- Assisting the AFP and Philippine National Police (PNP) in its anti-organised crime undertakings, which are usually authorised by the Office of the President.
- Conducting community service efforts in local communities.
- Maintaining and securing all facilities and transportation assets used by the Offices of the President and Vice President in performing its regular and non-regular functions.
“They are entitled to eight personnel, who are officer-led, but this depends on the ex-president, and the threat levels.” (Bicol Standard, 2016).
1.6 Brief History
The PSG can trace its lineage back to 1897, having a long history protecting the leaders of the Philippines.
Key dates include:
- While the PSG in its current form was established in 1987, the protection of the President and the Presidential Family has been always the duty of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) since 1897.
- A guard unit was raised at the time to protect the first official President, Emilio Aguinaldo (known as the “Columna Vigilantes or Escoltas” (PSG, 2017d)), from attempts on his life, while another was formed for the defence of Andrés Bonifacio, the Supremo of the Katipunan revolutionary movement, as a result of the decisions of the Naic Conference.
- A presidential cavalry squadron was raised for the protection of President Aguinaldo and his family, reinforced with a Guards infantry company.
- Like today’s PSG, they wore rayadillo uniforms, but with straw hats.
- Major (OF-3) Geronimo Gatmaitan was the unit commander.
- The 1st Cavalry Regiment of the 1st Infantry Division, Philippine Army, raised the same year, was tasked with defending President Manuel Quezon, his family, and the palace complex.
- The Cavalry Regiment was joined by a guards company in 1938 to reinforce the President’s security.
- During the Second World War, units of the occupying Imperial Japanese Army initially took over guard duties at the palace, only to be replaced by an all-Filipino guard battalion at the insistence of President José P. Laurel.
- At war’s end, it was in turn replaced by the AFP Presidential Guards Battalion under the orders of President Sergio Osmeña.
- The PSG of today traces its origins to 1950 when a presidential security unit was founded under the orders of President Elpidio Quirino as the secret service and protective unit of the state presidency, the First Family, and Malacañang Palace, under the control of the Philippine Constabulary (then the Secret Service of Malacañang Palace and later the Presidential Security Force and Presidential Security Agency and Presidential Security Command (PSC)).
- When President Corazon Aquino was sworn in as president, she gave the order to disband the PSC and replace with the PSG.
- The PSG was created by virtue of the General Order No. 60, General Headquarters, New Armed Forces of the Philippines (GHQ-NAFP), dated 18 March 1986 (COA, 2009).
- The PSG replaced the PSC which was de-activated on the same day.
- The then Presidential son Noynoy Aquino was ambushed in Malacañang by rebel soldiers (Aguinaldo, 2011). The PSG assigned to protect him all perished. Little did they know that the man that they gave their lives for would himself later become President.
- PSG officially established on 06 March 1987 (Bicol Standard, 2016).
- The Special Reaction Unit is established (PSG, 2017b), with officers and enlisted personnel from PSG’s Echo Company (Presidential Guards Battalion) and the 14th Scout Ranger Company (First Scout Ranger Regiment).
- The Security Battalion is established (PSG, 2017c).
- PSG Troopers website is launched on 01 February 2017 as part of an effort to improve public relations (Ranada, 2017).
- In the early hours of 19 July, a convoy of PSG troopers encountered a fake army checkpoint manned by members of the New People’s Army (NPA) in Arakan, North Cotabato (PSG, 2017a). Four PSG troopers were injured, but nothing was reported regarding NPA casualties.
- The PSG celebrated its 122nd anniversary on 28 June 2019 (PIA, 2019).
- In September 2019, Seven PSG Troopers are assigned to the Presidential Security Group Davao Operational Base (PSG Davao) as part of the 7th Light Reaction Company under the tactical control of the Special Reaction Unit of the PSG (PSG, 2019a).
PART TWO: ORGANISATION OF THE PSG
This part of the article outlines the organisation of the PSG, including its commander and the various units and sub-units within it.
2.1 PSG Mission
The primary mission of the Presidential Security Group is to provide 24-hour close-in protection and comprehensive security services to the President, First Family, their residences and other properties (Aguinaldo, 2011).
2.2 Commander PSG
The Presidential Security Group is led by a Colonel (OF-5) (PSG, 2018a), based at the headquarters (HQ) in the Malacañang Complex, Manila. In 2017, the PSG was led by a Brigadier General (OF-6) (Ranada, 2017).
The Commander PSG reports to the Office of the President of the Philippines, Department of National Defence.
2.3 Key Personalities
Key personalities include:
- Commander: A Colonel (OF-5) or Brigadier General (OF-6).
- Chief of Staff: A Colonel (PSG, 2019c).
- Special Reaction Unit Commander: A Commander/Lieutenant Colonel (OF-4) (PSG, 2019c).
- Commanding Officer Headquarters and Headquarters Service Battalion: A Lieutenant Colonel (PSG, 2019d).
- Assistant Chief of Staff for Personnel (G1): A Lieutenant Colonel.
- Commanding Officer Security Battalion: A Lieutenant Colonel (PSG, 2017c).
- Assistant Chief of Staff for Civil Military Operations Office (CMO) (OG7): A Lieutenant Colonel.
- Head of Office for Communication, Electronics, and Information Systems (CEIS) (OG6): A Major (OF-3) (PSG, 2017f).
- Commanding Officer Presidential Escorts Battalion: A Lieutenant Colonel.
- Commanding Officer Presidential Guards Battalion: A Colonel.
2.4 Units of the PSG
The PSG is a joint service unit comprised of (PCCO, 2019; PIA, 2019):
- A combined elite unit of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). Complemented by:
- Philippine National Police (PNP);
- Philippine Coast Guard (PCG);
- Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP);
- Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA);
- A civilian workforce.
On 31 December 2010, the Commission on Audit (COA) stated the PSG had “1,169 personnel” (COA, 2010, p.i), down from “2,307” in 2009 (COA, 2009, p.i), and “2,300” in 2008 (COA, 2008, p.i) (2008/2009/2010):
- 189/189/110 officers;
- 2,078/2,078/1,017 enlisted personnel; and
- 33/40/42 civilian employees.
It was organised as follows (COA, 2010, p.i):
- Headquarters and Headquarters Service Battalion.
- Operations Section (Corrales, 2017).
- Presidential Escorts (PE) Battalion:
- The PE are the ones who accompany the President and other VIP’s during the engagements, serving as the close-in security (PSG, 2018a).
- The K-9 unit conducts, among other roles, bomb detection using trained dogs (PSG, 2018a).
- In 2017, the PSG was established for 30 K-9 dogs, up from 25 in 2016 (PSG, 2017e).
- Presidential Guard Battalion:
- Secures the Malacañan Palace, The Mansion in Baguio City, Malacañang sa Sugbo in Cebu City, and the Presidential Guest House in Davao City.
- Presidential Special Reaction Unit (SRU):
- The SRU is a tactical unit which is tasked to conduct Special Operations; in support to the PSG’s mission, to protect the President, the first family, and other dignitaries (PSG, 2018a).
- Also known as the “Catalysts” (PSG, 2019c).
- Not to be confused with the PNP unit of the same name.
- Presidential Training School (PSGTS).
- Presidential Station Hospital.
- Presidential Dental Dispensary.
- Presidential Intelligence Company.
- Security Battalion.
Supporting units include:
- “…supported by seven AFP and two PNP units under the operational control” (OPCON) of the PSG (COA, 2010, p.i).
- The Police Protection Security Force unit undertakes crowd dispersal management (PSG, 2018a).
- Coast Guard Station Pasig (CGSP) “is an operationally controlled unit of PSG whose personnel are also PSG troopers protecting the President.” (PSG, 2019b). It is led by the Station Commander, a Lieutenant Commander (OF-3).
- 81st Special Action Company, of the PNP, under OPCON of the SRU (PSG, 2017b; PSG, 2018b).
- 5th Light Reaction Company, of the Light Reaction Regiment, under OPCON of the SRU (PSG, 2017b).
Training for PSG personnel includes (Aguinaldo, 2011; PSG, 2018a):
- Special operations (via the SRU).
- Weapons handling.
- Close protection (CP) tactics/VIP Protection Course (VIPPC).
- Bomb detection.
- Counter-terrorism (CT) action.
- Combat assault.
- Vehicle convoy drills.
Newly assigned personnel of the PSG – who come from the Philippine Army, Philippine Navy, and Philippine Air Force – must undergo time honoured reception rights which consists of a series of military exercises, a tradition that serves as an initial test of their physical abilities (PSG, 2019d).
PART THREE: MISCELLANEOUS
3.0 Useful Publications
- Published every six months, PSG Troopers Magazine is an official publication of the Presidential Security Group of the Republic of the Philippines with editorial office at G7
3.1 Useful Documentaries
- First aired on 10 January 2011, “PSG” was a documentary about the Presidential Security Group by Sandra Aguinaldo (GMA, 2011).
3.2 Useful Links
- PAG Troopers: http://psgtroopers.com/2017/.
- PSG Archived Website: https://web.archive.org/web/20160718075731/http://www.psg.mil.ph/index.php.
Bicol Standard. (2016) Former PH Presidents Given 8 Security Personnel. Available from World Wide Web: http://www.bicolstandard.com/2016/05/feature-former-ph-presidents-given-8.html. [Accessed: 12 September, 2019].
COA (Commission on Audit). (2008) Annual Audit Report: Presidential Security Group. Available from World Wide Web: https://www.coa.gov.ph/index.php/national-government-agencies/2008/category/344-department-of-national-defense. [Accessed: 12 September, 2019].
COA (Commission on Audit). (2010) Annual Audit Report: Presidential Security Group. Available from World Wide Web: https://www.coa.gov.ph/index.php/national-government-agencies/2010/category/282-department-of-national-defense. [Accessed: 12 September, 2019].
COA (Commission on Audit. (2009) Annual Audit Report: Presidential Security Group. Available from World Wide Web: https://www.coa.gov.ph/index.php/national-government-agencies/2009/category/313-department-of-national-defense. [Accessed: 12 September, 2019].
Corrales, N. (2017) PSG Officer found dead in Malacañang Complex. Available from World Wide Web: https://newsinfo.inquirer.net/933470/psg-presidential-security-group-officer-found-dead-after-shooting-incident-in-malacanang. [Accessed: 12 September, 2019].
GMA. (2011) “PSG” (Documentary by Sandra Aguinaldo). Available from World Wide Web: https://www.gmanetwork.com/news/publicaffairs/iwitness/210005/psg-documentary-by-sandra-aguinaldo/story/. [Accessed: 12 September, 2019].
PCOO (Presidential Communications Operations Office). (2019) President Duterte Graces PSG’s Command Social, Thanksgiving. Available from World Wide Web: https://pcoo.gov.ph/news_releases/president-duterte-graces-psgs-command-socials-thanksgiving/. [Accessed: 12 September, 2019].
PIA (Philippines Information Agency). (2019) PRRD Attends PSG’s 122nd Anniversary, Commends Elite Group for Service to Nation. Available from World Wide Web: https://pia.gov.ph/news/articles/1023882. [Accessed: 12 September, 2019].
PSG (Presidential Security Group). (2017a) PSG Encounters NPA at Arakan North Cotabato. Available from World Wide Web: http://psgtroopers.com/2017/2017/07/19/psg-encounters-npa-arakan-north-cotabato/. [Accessed: 12 September, 2019].
PSG (Presidential Security Group). (2017b) SRU Feast for its 29 Years. Available from World Wide Web: http://psgtroopers.com/2017/2017/07/13/sru-feasts-29-years/. [Accessed: 12 September, 2019].
PSG (Presidential Security Group). (2017c) SBn Toasts for its 13th Year. Available from World Wide Web: http://psgtroopers.com/2017/2017/07/05/sbn-toasts-13th-year/. [Accessed: 12 September, 2019].
PSG (Presidential Security Group). (2017d) PSG Commemorates 120 Years of Service. Available from World Wide Web: http://psgtroopers.com/2017/2017/06/30/psg-commemorates-120-years-of-service/. [Accessed: 12 September, 2019].
PSG (Presidential Security Group). (2017e) Where are the K-9 Dogs of PSG? Available from World Wide Web: http://psgtroopers.com/2017/2017/07/05/k-9-dogs-psg/. [Accessed: 12 September, 2019].
PSG (Presidential Security Group). (2017f) MAJ PERCIVAL ALCANAR Takes Over As PSG Toasts for New Head of CEIS. Available from World Wide Web: http://psgtroopers.com/2017/2017/06/15/maj-percival-alcanar-takes-over-as-psg-toasts-for-new-head-of-ceis/. [Accessed: 12 September, 2019].
PSG (Presidential Security Group). (2018a) 121 Years of Selfless Service and Dedication to Duty. Available from World Wide Web: http://psgtroopers.com/2017/2018/07/05/121-years-selfless-service-dedication-duty/. [Accessed: 12 September, 2019].
PSG (Presidential Security Group). (2018b) Who is the Strongest of them All? Available from World Wide Web: http://psgtroopers.com/2017/2018/06/25/who-is-the-strongest-of-them-all/. [Accessed: 12 September, 2019].
PSG (Presidential Security Group). (2019a) PSG Davao Receives New Troops. Available from World Wide Web: http://psgtroopers.com/2017/2019/09/09/psg-davao-receives-new-troops/. [Accessed: 12 September, 2019].
PSG (Presidential Security Group). (2019b) PSG Troopers of CGSP Join Battle for Rivers and Esteros. Available from World Wide Web: http://psgtroopers.com/2017/2019/04/03/psg-troopers-cgsp-join-battle-rivers-esteros/. [Accessed: 12 September, 2019].
PSG (Presidential Security Group). (2019c) PSG Catalysts Command Troopers. Available from World Wide Web: http://psgtroopers.com/2017/2019/02/21/psg-catalysts-commend-troopers/. [Accessed: 12 September, 2019].
PSG (Presidential Security Group). (2019d) PSG Welcomes Newly Assigned Troopers. Available from World Wide Web: http://psgtroopers.com/2017/2019/02/14/psg-welcomes-newly-assigned-troopers/. [Accessed: 12 September, 2019].
Ranada, P. (2017) Presidential Security Group Launches Website. Available From World Wide Web: https://www.rappler.com/nation/161050-presidential-security-group-website. [Accessed: 12 September, 2019].