No justice is served in Gloria Arroyo’s “dismantling” of private armies

Spokesperson, NDFP – Southern Mindanao

The National Democratic Front of the Philippines-Southern Mindanao hits the Arroyo regime's much-hyped dismantling of private armies calling this merely a grandstanding yet empty move by Ms. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and her minions to stem the tide of the people's wrath against perpetrators of the gruesome November 23 Ampatuan massacre.

With the people's seething rage and persistent calls for justice, leaving this case unsolved poses a threat that could lead to Arroyo's ouster. As the Ampatuan's Andal Jr. and other members responsible to the massacre remain unprosecuted, Mrs. Arroyo's plan to perpetuate in power through a daring bid in the reactionary GRP congress is in terrible danger.

The move to dismantle private armies came at the heels of massive and widespread calls from civil society and religious groups. To distance itself from command-responsibility, the Arroyo regime immediately convened the National Security Council citing the urgency to resolve the issue. But, this Council would only be a gathering of ideas to effectively employ schemes to evade from its culpability and eventually kill the issue.

The Arroyo regime's notorious game planners Defense Secretary Norberto Gonzales and Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita want to feign innocence with the existence of private armies and how these serve the political and economic interests of local politicians, political warlords and bureaucrat capitalists.

Private armies serve as personal bodyguards; as security force to protect properties and investments; as goons to intimidate the electorate and political opponents; as instruments for electoral fraud and other forms of cheating; and as death squads to intimidate peasants and workers, among others.

In Southern Mindanao, under the war baton of the 10th Infantry Division-AFP, these private armies form part of the Investment Defense Force to protect large-scale mining companies and multinational agri-businesses. They are instrumental in land grabbing, threatening and harassing local populace who resist the interests of big foreign and local capitalists. They also serve as death squads to kill petty criminals and supporters, members and leaders of legal and democratic organizations. The AFP is highly responsible for the bloody record of extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, and other forms of human rights violations.

The NDF sees the commission formed to investigate and oversee the dismantling of private armies as tokenish and inutile, similar to other commissions or task forces created under the Arroyo regime. Take the case of the Melo commission which has singled out Gen. Jovito Palparan as accountable for the number of extrajudicial killings, and which has done nothing else as to initiate his arrest and prosecution.

As the GRP election draws near, Mrs. Arroyo would not risk losing her close political allies by dismantling their armed group. This is the best time for Mrs. Arroyo and the candidates under her administration to use the private armies and manipulate the electorate to ensure victory, just like what happened during the 2004 and 2007 GRP elections when the Ampatuans delivered votes for her administration ticket.

The NDF calls all freedom-loving Filipinos to resist all deceptive attempts and treacherous maneuvers of the Arroyo regime. Mrs. Arroyo and the mercenary AFP — the biggest protectors and sources of private armies — must be prosecuted.