November 17, 2010
The umbrella group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan today supported calls for the dismantling of all paramilitary groups after Human Rights Watch issued the recommendations in its report on the Ampatuan massacre and the complicity of the Philippine state.
HRW said that many of the perpetrators of human rights violations in Maguindanao province belonged to paramilitary groups that served as a private army of the Ampatuan clan. This situation was made possiblle and aided by the Gloria Macapagal Arroyo government’s support for the Ampatuan family. Paramilitary groups consist of Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Units and Civilian Volunteer Organizations.
“We concur with HRW. A mere executive order from President Aquino is all it takes to dismantle the paramiltary units. This can greatly reduce the kind of abuses that various human rights groups have monitored over the years. The Maguindanao massacre should be the last of its kind. No longer should paramilitary units be allowed to become private armies,” said Bayan secretary general Renato M. Reyes, Jr.
“The Aquino government should also look into the complicity of the previous Arroyo government in the alleged abuses committed by the Ampatuans. This particular aspect is not covered by the ongoing Ampatuan trial. Gloria Arroyo is not even an accused there. Mr. Aquino must find ways to investigate her and make her accountable,” Reyes said.
Reyes said that had the” truth commission” included human rights violations in its scope , Arroyo’s involvement in the Maguindanao massacre could have been one of the issues examined.
“Mr. Aquino should order the investigation of Arroyo, including her top civilian and military officials, who not only turned a blind eye to the abuses in Maguindanao, but even aided the Ampatuans militarily and politically. The systemic roots of the massacre should also be addressed by the Aquino government. This can pave the way for the investigation of Arroyo’s complicity in other human rights violations involving state forces,” Reyes said.
“State involvement in human rights violations, whether in the matter of the Maguindanao massacre or other cases of extrajudicial killings has long been assumed but no one has been investigated or made accountable. How does the Aquino government plan on going after the policy-makers responsible for the gross human rights violations of the past regime?” he added.
Bayan lamented that even under the Aquino regime, paramilitary groups are deemed essential to “internal security operations” especially at the barangay levels.
“The paramilitary groups have been with us since the time of Marcos and they go by different names. During the time of the first Aquino regime, the CAFGU’s were instituted and have been strengthened and increased since then. Their budget has increased. They are also exempted from the election gun ban,” Reyes said.
The Aquino government is set to draft a new Internal Security Plan which will be implemented next year. Bayan said it will closely monitor this development and called for public disclosure and scrutiny of the ISP, citing previous abuses under the Oplan Bantay Laya as reasons to be more vigilant now.
“Mr. Aquino’s reliance on the military to stabilize his regime has made him careful in dealing with the abuses attributed to the AFP. This could be a continuing major factor in his decision whether or not to dismantle the paramilitary groups and investigate top officials,” Reyes said. (Bulatlat.com)