CPP Information Bureau
The Arnulfo Ortiz Command of the New People's Army in Wester Samar said today that private armies in the province are almost impossible to dismantle because the Arroyo government supports them. "The Arroyo government pays lip service to dismantling private armies and stopping election violence," said Ka Vicente Magbuhat, spokesperson of the Arnulfo Ortiz Command.
"The reality is that these private armies are often composed of paramilitaries from the Civilian Volunteer Organization (CVO) and Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Unit (CAFGU). Additionally, there are also criminal elements involved — although more often than not, criminals and CVO/CAFGU are one and the same. There are also regular police and military elements who are hired by certain politicians.
"As can be seen, these private armies are usually made up of government forces who also carry out the "counter-insurgency" Oplan Bantay Laya campaign. Thus the military's insinuation that NPA forces are in the pay of certain politicians is simply untrue — it is government forces forces that are."
Magbuhat also identified the areas where there are politicians who maintain significant private armies. "These are Calbayog City, Catbalogan, Daram, Gandara and San Jose de Buan. In fact, there has been a furor over election-related bloodshed in Calbayog City. That is because those who are behind the violence are the police and military themselves who are on opposing sides. One private army run by powerful politicians is backed by the Police Provincial Mobile Group. The other one maintained by rival politicians is backed by the 20th Infantry Battalion.
"In Daram Island, the politicians in power maintain a private army composed of CVO/CAFGU and criminal elements recruited from other towns and provinces. In Catbalogan, criminal and military elements are in the pay of those in power. In Gandara, the private armies are mainly plain criminals. And in San Jose de Buan, the incumbent is running a private army composed of the CVO/CAFGU."
The AOC spokesperson said that the private armies indeed sow terror and mayhem in their locales. "Though there has not been single incident on the same scale as the Maguindanao massacre, the total number of innocent civilians recently killed by private armies is almost equal to that. These mercenaries also engage in harassments and extortions. They contribute to the climate of fear in the province created by the impunity for human rights violations of the police and military in carrying out Oplan Bantay Laya."
Ka Vicente Magbuhat added that to really dismantle the private armies, the main sources of reactionary violence must first be punished and dismantled. "The private armies are thriving because these are merely extensions of government forces and thus also serve as instruments of political repression. It is thus farcical for the police and military in the region to talk about doing away with these private armies — and in fact, many of their own personnel are closely involved. As far as the NPA is concerned, any politician who wishes to campaign inside the revolutionary territories can only bring a certain number of security detail as defined by the revolutionary government. They cannot bring their private armies to terrorize the people into voting for them. Security details that exceed regulation, as well as armed groups that harass the people in behalf of politicians running for office, are suject to arrest and confiscation of weapons by the NPA.
"Private armies that actually join military and police operations against the NPA are duly regarded as enemy combatants and therefore legitimate targets. In the long run, the real solution to the private armies is the NPA's defeating and smashing of the military and police, the fascist state machinery that abets them."