Dominant Private Armies in Visayas Are Arroyo Allies and Still Untouchable

The National Democratic Front-Eastern Visayas today called the Arroyo government’s campaign against private armies a farce because the politicians who run them are administration allies in the region. “The
Arroyo regime only wants to put on a show to assuage public sentiment,” said Fr. Santiago Salas, NDF-EV spokesperson. “But the reality is that Arroyo’s allies run the biggest private armies in the region and are thus virtually untouchable. Not only that, but the military and the police are fully aware of and are themselves deeply involved in these private armies. These private armies backstop interrelated political fiefdoms, economic interests and criminal syndicates, and are also involved in the Arroyo government’s Oplan Bantay Laya counterrevolutionary war.”

Fr. Salas pointed out that the two biggest politicians in Western Samar are both Arroyo allies though they are bitter rivals. The province historically has seen the bloodiest election-related violence because of private armies. “The biggest warlord in Western Samar is also the Arroyo administration’s official candidate. This politician is known to be close to the military and is often provided with up to a platoon of soldiers as security escort. Aside from the military, the police’s Regional Mobile Group is also in the pockets of this
politician through a close ally. On the other hand, another big politician has a private army composed of goons who are handled by the 20th Infantry Battalion. Aside from the private armies directly under
them, these two biggest politicians have other allies with their own armed groups composed of criminals, CAFGU and CVO paramilitaries, soldiers and policemen.”

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Furthermore, Fr. Salas said that, “In Northern Samar, a big politician who is an administration ally also has control of the RMG, while his rivals have their own private armies with police and military support.

In Eastern Samar, the leading Arroyo politician and others maintain private armies mainly supported by the military and criminal syndicates. In Leyte, the ruling political dynasty in the province is allied with Arroyo and closely supported by the RMG and the 19th IB; the same is true with the politicians in power in Kananga and Ormoc City. Not to be left behind, another political dynasty in Leyte that is also an Arroyo ally is once again growing stronger and it is not impossible that violence will flare up such as that in Western Samar.”

The NDF-EV spokesperson added that, “Private armies are tolerated because these are expressions of ruling class interests. The regime in power definitely will not move against private armies, especially
those run by its biggest allies. Thus violence out of political rivalry will continue to hound the 2010 election as never before. Moreover, the people will continue to suffer from the reactionary violence imposed by those who are protecting and furthering the biggest political, economic and criminal interests. Such interests are
represented today by the Arroyo regime, and the private armies of its allies are also entwined with Oplan Bantay Laya and the suppression of all political opposition.”

Fr. Salas said that the revolutionary movement does not tolerate and seeks to stamp out private armies. “Politicians who seek to campaign in revolutionary areas have to ask permission from the revolutionary
authorities and are furthermore prohibited from bringing excessive security or intimidating the people. The NPA is under orders to stop and disarm those who violate such regulations. Private armies that join military and police operations against the revolutionary movement, or are used in landgrabbing and other anti-people
activities, will also face NPA offensives. In the final analysis, private armies can only be done away with the downfall of the oppressive and exploitative ruling system that gives birth to them.”

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