From July 2010 to June 30, 2016, Karapatan documented 94 individuals killed by government-backed paramilitary troops.
By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA – As President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the Philippine Army to “take full control” of paramilitary groups in Mindanao, human rights alliance Karapatan reiterated its call for the disbandment of the said groups.
Cristina Palabay, Karapatan secretary general, said the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) should comply with Duterte’s order to halt the operations of paramilitary groups in communities.
Speaking to reporters in Cagayan de Oro City, Sept. 22, Duterte said, “Paramilitary men operating especially with firearms issued by the government would undermine the peace process.” “Mahinto na sana ito because we are really trying our best to come up with a peaceful country,” he added.
Duterte cited in particular the Magahat-Bagani Force operating in Surigao del Sur and another group in Arakan, North Cotabato.
Palabay noted that it’s the first time for a Philippine president to openly admit that armed groups like the Bagani paramilitary are backed by the government. “There should be no reason for the AFP to deny their links now. Instead, the AFP should follow their Commander-in-Chief’s order and pull out all paramilitary troops out of the communities,” Palabay said.
At least 25 paramilitary groups operate in the country under the command of the AFP, according to Karapatan. During the Aquino administration, Karapatan said at least P5 billion was allocated every year for the said groups through the Department of National Defense (DND) budget.
From July 2010 to June 30, 2016, Karapatan documented 94 individuals killed by government-backed paramilitary troops. These groups include the Civilian Armed Force Geographical Unit (CAFGU), Special Civilian Armed Auxiliary (SCAA), Investment Defense Force (IDF), and other groups such as the Magahat-Bagani Force and Revolutionary Proletarian Army-Alex Boncayao Brigade (RPA-ABB), among others.
UN Human Rights Council
In an alternative report submitted to the Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights for the 27th Session of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in the United Nations Human Rights Council, Karapatan cited that the Philippine government has yet to disband paramilitary groups and repeal Executive Order 546, which allows the creation and use of paramilitary forces.
Created in 2006, the UPR reviews the human rights records of all 192 UN member states once every four years. In this process, each member state is provided the opportunity to declare what actions they have taken to improve the human rights situation in their respective countries and to fulfill their human rights obligations.
The Philippines will be among the member countries to be reviewed for the third cycle of the UPR by the UN Human Rights Council in May 2017. http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/UPR/Pages/UPRMain.aspx
In its report, Karapatan maintained, “the Aquino administration legitimized the creation of investment defense forces to protect interests of mining corporations.” The human rights alliance cited high-profile cases of extrajudicial killings perpetrated by paramilitary groups, including Juvy Capion and her two sons ; of Italian missionary Fr. Fausto Tentorio ; of indigenous people’s leader Jimmy Liguyon.
Forces of the Magahat-Bagani were allegedly responsible for the September 1, 2015 massacre of school executive director Emerito Samarca and Lumad leaders Dionel Campos and Juvello Sinzo in Lianga, Surigao del Sur.
Recent cases of human rights abuses include the murder of six-month pregnant Makenet Gayoran by suspected elements of paramilitary group New Indigenous People’s Army for Reform (NIPAR) last July 30 and the Sept. 13 killing of peasant couple Totong Gascon and Rita Gascon in Arakan, North Cotabato by alleged elements of Bagani paramilitary forces.
Palabay called for the total disbandment of paramilitary groups in light of the ongoing unilateral ceasefire declaration.