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SF CHRP (San Francisco Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines) is a San Francisco based human rights advocacy group. Latest news and views on human rights in the Philippines.

No Progress Disarming, Demobilizing Militias Says Human Rights Watch

Men from a Christian fundamentalist militia in Mindanao.  Most, if not all, militias are in one way or another armed and supported by the Philippine government and strong local political families (photo by Jonathan Adams/Christian Science Monitor).

Men from a Christian fundamentalist militia in Mindanao. Most, if not all, militias are in one way or another armed and supported by the Philippine government and strong local political families (photo by Jonathan Adams/Christian Science Monitor).

The international human rights non-profit, Human Rights Watch, is reporting that President Aquino has reneged on his promise to go after and disarm government backed and land lord backed militias which account for many of the over 114 political killings since Aquino took office in June of 2010:

The Aquino administration has done little to disarm and demobilize militias and paramilitary forces three years after the massacre of 58 people by the “private army” of a powerful political clan in the southern Philippines, Human Rights Watch said today. The slow pace of the Maguindanao Massacre trial and the government’s failure to arrest nearly a hundred suspects raise grave concerns for the safety of witnesses and for obtaining justice for the victims.

“Three years since the horrors of the Maguindanao Massacre, the trial crawls along, half of the suspects remain at large, and the victims’ families still face threats,” said Brad Adams, Asia director. “Yet the larger problem is that the Aquino administration has done next to nothing to disband the rest of the country’s private armies.”

On November 23, 2009, in the southern Philippines island of Mindanao, some 200 armed men stopped a convoy carrying family members and supporters of Maguindanao province gubernatorial candidate Esmael Mangudadatu as they went to register his candidacy in upcoming elections. The gunmen forced the group of 58 people – 20 Mangudadatu relatives and supporters, 32 journalists and media workers, and 6 passersby – off the highway near the town of Ampatuan. They brought them to a hill, ordered them out of their vehicles, and executed them.

The massacre, the worst in recent Philippines history, resulted in charges against senior members of the Ampatuan family, which controlled Maguindanao province for more than two decades. The family ruled through a “private army” of 2,000 to 5,000 armed men comprised of government-supported militia, local police, and military personnel. Mangudadatu had posed a political threat to the Ampatuans, hence the plot to stop him from running, according to witnesses at the trial. Mangudadatu is now governor of Maguindanao.

The Maguindanao Massacre brought to light the dangers posed by private armies, militias, and paramilitaries in the Philippines, but the administration of President Benigno Aquino III has not seriously addressed the problem. Aquino should rescind Executive Order 546, issued in 2006 by then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, which allows the arming of the CVOs by local officials. The Ampatuans justified the recruitment and arming of militia members, ostensibly to fight Islamist rebels but in reality to consolidate their hold on power, by citing Executive Order 546.

There are concerns that Executive Order 546 will be used by powerful politicians to arm militias prior to the midterm and local elections slated for May 2013. The Interior Department has already identified 15 provinces as “election hotspots” where political violence has occurred and is likely to worsen prior to election day. Four of these provinces are in Mindanao, among them Maguindanao. The rest are in the central and north Philippines known to have political warlords and a history of election violence.

“Aquino pledged during the campaign that he would revoke Executive Order 546, but he has reneged on that promise,” Adams said. “With one stroke of a pen, he can make good on his commitment for the good of all Filipinos.”

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This entry was posted on December 3, 2012 by and tagged , , , , .

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