Saturday, October 13, 2012

Kopi Talk private armies

After the massacre of 58 people in Maguindanao in 2009, a panel was formed by then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to recommend measures to dismantle private armies and prevent the creation of new ones. The Independent Commission Against Private Armies did come up with its report, but private armed groups still disrupted the general elections in May 2010. Now Mar Roxas, in his new role as secretary of the interior and local government, has reportedly warned politicians that they face the full force of the law if they are found to have private armies. Roxas, whose department has jurisdiction over the Philippine National Police, said private armed groups could be dismantled through raids, checkpoints, heightened intelligence-gathering, and increased presence of security forces. Roxas said he would also try to talk to the concerned politicians. If private armies are neutralized in the 2013 elections, it will be a major achievement for the administration. The politicians who are notorious for maintaining private armies are usually also among the most influential. They build up private arsenals because the government looks the other way. Despite the fact that the country has tough gun laws, these are rarely enforced when the lawbreakers are influential politicians, especially those allied with the administration. This was the case in the Maguin-danao massacre. For a decade, members of the Ampatuan clan were given free rein in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. There was no effort to stop the illegal accumulation of wealth and weaponry in the ARMM, one of the country’s poorest regions. It was inevitable that the rulers felt invincible and believed they could get away with anything, including the brutal murder of 58 people. The same situation, although on a lesser scale, still prevails in many parts of the country, which are ruled like fiefdoms by political kingpins. Will the Aquino administration go against them? The biggest reason for the continued existence of private armies is the lack of political will to dismantle them. In the first major election under President Aquino, perhaps his administration will surprise us and be different. - (