Is Canada funding mercenaries in Mindanao? If this is true, this is not the first time that Canada has been accused of such. Private military companies earn about $100 billion yearly and mercenary armies through the years have been linked to areas where there is mineral wealth just like in Mindanao.
By Ted Alcuitas
Vancouver, B.C. – Is Canada funding mercenaries in Mindanao?
A small town in Northern Cotabato in Mindanao could be using funds provided by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), Canada’s international aid agency, to help pay for a mercenary army led by a former Canadian soldier.
Magpet, a town of with a population of 40,000, was featured recently in a six-part series in The Ottawa Citizen and The Vancouver Sun titled Soldiers of Fortune. The story focused on Canada’s emerging role as one of the world’s leading providers of mercenaries.
According to the story, Magpet Mayor Efren Piñol, Sr. asked a Canadian identified only as William for help after the town was raided by members of the New People’s Army (NPA) on June 26. Without firing a single shot, the NPA disarmed the town’s police force and carted away 24 high-powered rifles and handguns.
Piñol was reportedly upset with the ineffectiveness of the military in protecting his town during the NPA raid. He was forced to rely on a private army trained by the Canadian. The 12 to 15-member private army was composed of his own bodyguards and former Filipino soldiers.
According to the Vancouver Sun article, the 38-year old William is no stranger to this kind of work. He trained and led similar teams for Grayworks Security, a Philippine company providing security to large corporations.
“How can a small town afford to pay for a private army?” asked Barbara Waldern, chair of the B.C. Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines (BCCHRP) and member of the International Solidarity Mission (ISM) to the Philippines which investigated human rights violations in August.
In 2002, CIDA gave P4.8 million ($89,803.55, based on an exchange rate of P53.45 per US dollar) to the Mindanao Program for Peace and Development (ProPeace) to fund livelihood and enterprise development projects in areas like Magpet designated as Special Zones for Peace and Development. CIDA’s George Shaw, director-general for communications and Anne Germaine, first secretary for the development cooperation section, attended the awarding ceremonies in Davao City. The two later went to Magpet to inspect the projects.
This year, Pinol also received P70, 000 ($1,309.63) from the Mt. Apo Foundation, Inc. (MAFI) and another P60,000 ($1,122.54) from the Philippine National Oil Corp. for education projects for children of indigenous people like the Lumads who live within a 10-kilometer radius of Mt. Apo.
In a statement after the raid, the NPA branded Piñol as a “corrupt and coercive anti-people warlord.” According to the NPA, the raid was made to punish Piñol because of his “aggressive big agri-business expansion, ‘bagani’ armed paramilitary formations and intensified military operations.”
The Magpet mayor is the brother of North Cotabato Gov. Emmanuel Piñol whose two other brothers ran for mayoral posts but lost in the last May 2004 elections. Another brother, Bernardo, Jr. is provincial administrator while Noli is chief security. Ferdinand is executive assistant and Socrates is private secretary to the governor. The governor caught the ire of a Catholic bishop and even his own local police which both accused the governor of abuse of power.
While Canada has been known in the world for its peacekeeping role, the country is becoming known for being a source of guns for hire.
William is not the only Canadian in the Philippines working for so-called private military companies (PMCs). According to The Citizen, a former Canadian Forces soldier and a retired Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) officer are training bodyguards in Subic Bay. Private security contractor Andy Bradsell of Victoria, B.C.went to the Philippines before moving to Iraq where he got killed last year.
Although political dynasties and businesses in the Philippines have always used private armies to protect their interests and preserve power, this is believed to be the first time that Canada has been mentioned as participating in the lucrative business.
According to the Asia Times, PMCs earn an estimated $100 billion annually. In 1994, the U.S. Department of Defense accounted for 12 of the 34 contracts for PMCs worth $300 billion. The Asia Times said that the Philippines’ combined number of PMC employees outnumber the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP).
Mining and mercenaries
Magpet, like most of Mindanao, is rich with minerals and rubber. Several transnational mining companies are involved in mining operations there, including Vancouver-based Sur American Gold Corporation which controls the rich T’boli (an indigenous peoples group) gold project in Southern Cotabato.
Mercenary armies are linked to mineral wealth and where there are gold, copper or diamonds, so goes the mercenaries. In a paper titled “Mercenary Armies and Mineral Wealth” which appeared in the Fall 1997 issue of Covert Action Quarterly, environmental writer Pratap Chatterjee said that former British commandoes were hired to work for private armies that provided security for mining operations in countries like Papua New Guinea, Angola, Columbia and Sierra Leone and the Congo.
In the article, Jeff Moag of the Washington-based National Security News Service explained that “military action, private or public to support mineral extraction permeates the history of the Americas.” He said that the financing of the mercenaries by the mineral industries amounts to nothing less than a new colonialism and the men who enforce it, “like their predecessors are the prostitutes of war who sell themselves to any company, faction, or government with ready cash to pay.”
A former General who commanded United Nations troops during the Rwanda genocide said that mercenaries should be banned, according to The Sun.
For his part, Sen. Romeo Dallaire who wrote the book Shaking Hands with the Devil feared that the lack of accountability and oversight for PMCs could lead to abuses since governments are actually acknowledging that “these things are capable and they’re acceptable.” (Bulatlat.com)