November 24, 2010
When will government learn its lesson?
This was the question asked by the umbrella group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan in reaction to statements by Philippine president Benigno Aquino III that his government will not dismantle paramilitary units and militias despite abuses.
Paramilitary groups and militias have been implicated in the Ampatuan, Maguindanao massacre in November 2009. Various groups like Bayan, Karapatan and the New York-based Human Rights Watch have called on Aquino to dismantle paramilitary groups that are often being used as private armies of local politicians.
“The Aquino government’s hard-line position that it will not dismantle militias, despite the many abuses attributed to them, raises questions on the seriousness of the government in achieving complete justice for the victims. The continued existence of these civilian armed groups lays the basis for future abuses and for the continued recruitment of private armies,” said Bayan secretary general Renato M. Reyes, Jr.
“It’s as if Mr. Aquino has not really learned the lessons of the Maguindanao massacre and the human rights violations of the last 25 years,” Reyes added.
Bayan said that the Aquino government’s claim that it will work towards professionalizing paramilitary groups was “preposterous and insults public intelligence.”
“Are they kidding us? The government and AFP can’t even professionalize regular troops when it comes to respecting human rights. What more the CAFGUs ?” Reyes said
“We have 50,000 armed civilians with minimal training being used all over the country as a local security force. The potential for abuse is built-in. It is inevitable,” he added.
Bayan said that CAFGUs as a force multiplier and local security force cannot be an absolute justification for their existence. “Mr. Aquino calls the CAFGUs as a necessary local security force but from what we’ve seen, the CAFGUs and CVOs are themselves local security threats. And in many cases, it’s not the community they are securing but the local politicians and warlords,” Reyes said.
“If paramilitary groups again become involved in another heinous crime, then the Aquino government will undoubtedly be held responsible this time around. They can’t wash their hands anymore,” the Bayan leader added.
Bayan called on the Human Rights committees of the Senate and Lower House to conduct a joint inquiry into the necessity of paramilitary units. It said that the inquiry should take a historical assessment of the problems with militias and paramilitary groups. (Bulatlat.com)