Friday, December 9, 2011

The Ampatuan Files, Part I: Human Rights Watch Report on the Clan's Chainsaw Murders: "They Own the People"

In what is clearly a case of pandering to poltical tastes, the Secretary of the Department of Justice (DOJ), Leila de Lima, led a multi-agency task force to a non-desript empty parcel of land in the municipality of Datu Hofer Ampatuan- not to be confused with the municipality of Datu Saudi Ampatuan- OR- the municipality OF Ampatuan- in Maguindanao Province in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao, known to most simply as "ARMM." With Secretary de Lima was an excavator and other assorted heavy equipment that began tearing into the knee high Cogon Grass and loam beneath it in search of yet even more victims of what is today perhaps the most recognisable clan on Mindanao, the Ampatuans- despite most of the clan's heavy hitters being buried under the jail in Camp Bagong Diwa, in Metro Manila's Taguig City.

The men are jailed there of course for their having created the monstrosity known as the Maguindanao Massacre two years and a day before Secretary tried to collect anal-Pogi Points by alerting the media to what should be a highly sensitive excavation. Sensitive politicaly, militarily, and even religiously owing to Islamic Law not exactly smiling on disinternment of human remains- though, for the life of me, I don't recall a single Muslim on Mindanao ever once objecting to what has become an all too regular facet of life on our fair isle. Most of all, the operation is extremely sensitive to the loved ones of the Ampatuan Clan's many victims over the decades.

Although more than one set of skeletal remains was uncovered within the first 90 minutes of digging, I will relegate the Ps and Qs of that sordid outing to an entry I plan to compose within the next day or so although I reckon it just might make better sense to await the excavation's closure to see just what might pop out of the task force's many potholes. This entry is instead about a Human Rights Watch report that the American-based NGO whipped up to memorialise the Maguindanao Massacre, on the incident's first anniversary, November 23rd, 2010. Entitled, "They Own the People," the report doesn't deal with the Massacre, but rather it discusses what is said to be at least five dozen victims of the clan who were murdered for a variety of reasons, in a variety of ways- including dismemberment by chainsaw, in the decades before the Massacre.


"They Own the People"

pp1 (Title and Contents)

pp2 (Map of Mindanao with a Focus on ARMM)

pp3 (Glossary of Terms and Abbreviations)

pp4 Summary

"In Maguindanao, the word of the Ampatuans was the law. It was either you said 'yes' to (them), or you got yourself killed for daring to say 'no'."- Suwaib Upham, Ampatuan militia member, March 9th, 2010.

"Warlordism exists because it has blessing from the top [sic]."- Philippine academic, Mindanao State University, General Santos City, February 14th, 2010

On November 23rd, 2009, around 200 armed men stopped a convoy carrying family members and supporters of a local vice mayor in the southern Philippine island of Mindanao as they went to register his candidacy in upcoming gubernatorial elections. The gunmen forced the group of 58 people- which included some 30 media workers and six passerby, off the highway near the town of Ampatuan, ordered them from their vehicles, and then executed them all.

The massacre- the worst in recent Philippine history- has since been attributed to members of the Ampatuan family, which has controlled life and death in Maguindanao Province for more than two decades through a "private army" of 2,000 to 5,000 armed men comprised of Government-supported militia, local police, and military personnel. Many members of the family, which is headed by Andal Ampatuan Sr.-Maguindanao's Governor from 2001 to 2009- hold official posts in the province and in the region. Before the 2007 Elections, most of Maguindanao's 27 mayors were the sons, grandsons, or other relatives of Andal Ampatuan Sr., including his son, Andal Jr., who stands charged with 57 counts of Murder in connection with the 2009 massacre. Ampatuan Jr. is currently on trial in Manila for the killings, together with 16 police officers and two alleged militia members. Currently, 195 people have been charged, including 29 members of the Ampatuan family and their allies; over half of those charged remain at large.

While killings among ruling families in Central Mindanao are not uncommon, the scale and brutality of the November 23rd massacre far exceed previous attacks in this violent region. It also focused international attention on ruling families like the Ampatuans, and the lawlessness that persists in much of the Philippines. Less scrutinized than the violence itself, however, but ultimately of greater significance, is the support that the National Government provides such families throughout the country, and the near total impunity that their abusive militias enjoy. Successive National Governments have not dismanteled and disarmed these militia forces, as stipulated in the 1987 Philippine Constitution, nor have they investigated and prosecuted unlawful activities by those who control, arm, and used them for private ends. Indeed, rather than trying to prevent militias from carrying out illegal criminal acts, the military and police often provide them with manpower, weapons, and protection from prosecution.

This report focuses on the Ampatuan family and its forces, one of the most powerful and abusive state-backed militias in the Philippines. It charts the Ampatuans' rise and expansion, aided by President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, who relied on the family for crucial votes and support in the protracted armed conflict with Moro armed groups in Mindanao. The report also details the Ampatuans' many abuses, including more than 50 incidents of killings, torture, sexual assault, and abductions and "disappearances." In addition to the 58 killed in the Maguindanao Massacre, the family is implicated over the years in the killing of at least 56 people, including relatives of opposition politicians, landowners who resisted forced acquisition of their property, eyewitnesses to the Ampatuans' crimes, including their own militia members, and even children.

One year after the Maguindanao Massacre, the Ampatuans remain a powerful and dangerous force with which to be reckoned. For more than two decades, the Ampatuans operated unchecked by the Philippine National Police, the Military, and the Department of Justice, which not only have failed to seriously investigate crimes allegedly committed by the family's militia, but have even armed and worked alongside its members. Despite an initial flurry of activity after the November 23rd killings, including some arrests, 126 suspects remain at large and the Government prosecution remains woefully slow and limited. Senior police and military officers who failed to act upon knowledge of Ampatuan crimes have not been investigated; investigations into the source of the family's weapons have lacked transparency and independence; and the national institutions responsible for accountability- the Justice Department, the Ombudsman's Office, and the Commission on Human Rights- have done nothing significant to address the situation. "What can we do?" asked one police officer. "This is an influential family."

In his successful campaign for the presidency this year, Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III vowed to abolish private armies that flourished under President Arroyo, who authorized the arming of Civilian Volunteer Organizations (CVOs) and Police Auxiliary Units, and allowed Local Government Units to enter contractual arrangements with the Military for barely trained militia forces called Special CAFGUs (SCAAs). Aquino also promised to hold accountable the perpetrators of the Maguindanao Massacre, and seek justice for the hundreds of other human rights abuses. Aquino should fufill these promises by taking immediate action to disarm and disband all militias, including state-sanctioned paramilitary forces, in Maguindanao and throughout the country. He should also institute tougher controls on local government procurement of weapons, and prosecute perpetrators of human rights abuses regardless of position or rabk.

Broad and lasting change will not come easily. Suspicious of police collusion, few victims or witnesses of crimes by government officials trust the country's haphazard Witness Protection Program. Many of the Ampatuan's victims have never reported the abuses they have suffered at the hands of the family which has long relied on threats and other forms of intimidation to build and maintain its power. Indeed, several victims and witnesses declined to be interviewed by Human Rights Watch, despite undertaking actions to protect their identities, because they feared retaliation by the family and its private army.

The term "private army" is commonly used in the Philippines to describe security forces of powerful politicians, wealthy landowners, and other private interests. The term is accurate in that it describes the loyalties of such forces- armed bodies that act on behalf of private, an not public, interests. As a result, human rights abuses committed by private armies are often dismissed as a manifestation of regional culture or an exhibition of "Rido," or clan conflict. But such explanations- and the very term "private armies"- fails to capture the state's role in these forces make-up, support, and involvement in abuses.

According to inviduals with knowledge of the Ampatuans' force structure, most members of their private army are also members of the state-sanctioned paramilitary forces, namely the Civilian Volunteer Organization (CVO), Police Auxiliary Unit, Citizens Active Force Geographical Unit (CAFGU), or Special Citizens Active Auxiliary. Their forces also include regular members of the police or military. Many are relatives of local government officials. Militia members, who receive virtually no training, swear allegiance to the family and operate without police or military supervision, as is required by law. The number of militiamen is limited only by the local government's ability to fund operational costs.

The Ampatuans have provided their militia with formidable modern military weaponry. In the aftermath of the Maguindanao Massacre, investigators recovered at least 1,000 weapons in and around the homes of Andal Ampatuan Sr. and Jr., including anti-tank weapons, mortars, machine guns, automatic pistols, and sniper and assault rifles, as well as tens of thousands of rounds of ammunition. Ampatuan family insiders and police officers investigating the Massacre say that the Military and police provided the Ampatuans with most of these weapons, a situation facilitated by Philippine law, which permits local government officials to legally buy an unlimited number of weapons without any obligation to report the type or number purchased.

According to insiders, the Ampatuans used their militia for a wide range of criminal activity intended to eliminate threats to the family's rule, or to warn anyone considering posing such a threat. Cases involving the Ampatuan militia forces include:

• On July 20th, 2005, about 25 armed men in military uniforms shot and killed Haji Noria Tambungalan and her child in Barangay Kitango. Her husband, Mando Tambungalan, said he recognized three of the armed men as hired killers on the Ampatuan payroll. He told Human Rights Watch that he had been targeted by the Ampatuans since running for Vice Mayor of Datu Piang in 2001.

• On December 2nd, 2006, in Cotabato City, motorcycle riding gunmen linked to the Ampatuan Clan shot and killed Judge Sahara Silongan while he was driving his family home. A relative of the judge believes he was killed for failing to issue an illegal warrant of arrest demanded by the Ampatuans: "It was a form of liquidation." Noone has been arrested for the killing.

• On June 23rd, 2006, the Ampatuans planted a bomb which exploded near the Shariff Ahuak Market, killing five people including Ed Mangansakan. Mangansakan was a known weapons supplier for the Ampatuans. A man working as a CVO for the Ampatuans at this time told Human Rights Watch that Ampatuans' men planted the bomb in order to get weapons purchased from Mangansakan for free.

• On August 28th, 2008, a cousin of Andal Ampatuan Jr., and his armed men allegedly shot and killed eight members of the Lumenda and Aleb families, including one child, as they harvested rice in Barangay Tapikan, in Shariff Aguak municipality. One gunman, a member of the Police Auxiliary Unit, told Human Rights Watch that he and others were ordered to shoot the family because the Ampatuans doubted their loyalty.

Crimes linked to Ampatuan family members have not stopped since the Maguindanao Massacre and the massive attention focused on the case and the region. A member of the family's militia who participated in the killings- Suwaib Upham, 27- told Human Rights Watch that he had killed a witness to the Maguindanao shootings with a grenade launcher several days after Andal Ampatuan Jr. was arrested by authorities. Upham described himself as close to the Ampatuan family for most of his life and gave his statement to a Private Prosecutor, which was then submitted ro the authorities under a pseudonym. He was shot and killed on June 14th, 2010, while still awaiting inclusion in the Government Witness Protection Program.

The private army of the Ampatuan family may be among the most abusive in the Philippines, but it is just one among many. More than 100 private armies, large and small, are estimated to be operating throughout the Philippines, primarily but not exclusively in rural areas, and often but not always where there is an active insurgency. The level of direct Government support for these militias varies, but if the Ampatuan example is any indication, a history of abuses is no disqualifier. So long as such official support continues, so will these forces and the atrocities for which they have been responsible. The Maguindanao Massacre was an aberation only because of how many people died, not because of its cold blooded brutality, which the Government, Military, and police has long tolerated, and even fueled. Instead, the killings were an atrocity waiting to happen. It is up to the Aquino Administration to ensure they are the last of their kind.




I) Background

The Legacy of Violence in Mindanao

The Philippines main southern island of Mindanao has been a focal point for insurgencies since the beginning of the American colonial period at the turn of the twentieth century. The Muslim population, known as "Moros," make up more than 20% of Mindanao, and have long resisted encroachment by the predominantly Christian majority.

Since Philippine Independence in 1946, armed conflict between Moro groups and the Philippine Government have continued with varying levels of intensity.

In the 1970s Moro secessionists formed a separatist movement, the Moro National Liberation Movement (MNLF), which later splintered, creating the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). Since then, armed confrontations between the Government and the Moro groups have resulted in the death of an estimated 120,000 people, mostly civilians, and the displacement of some two million more.

Negotiations in the 1980s led to the creation of the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) in 1990, discussed below. After a resurgence of violence in 2008, a shaky ceasefire was forged in 2009. At this writing, the Aquino Government and the MILF are preparing to engage in peace negotiations.

Violence in Mindanao has many forms. Mindanao was a stronghold of the Communist New People's Army (NPA) from the late 1970s until the mid-1980s, when it was confronted not only by the army and militia forces, but by abusive state supported "viginlante groups" such as "Alsa Masa" (Masses Arise). A radical Islamist group, Abu Sayyaf, emerged in the 1990s. All of these forces continue to perpetrate numerous serious human rights abuses- including abductions, torture, and killings- against suspected adversaries and ordinary civilains in Mindanao.

In Mindanao, as elsewhere in the Philippines, wealthy and politically powerful families have sought to defend and expand their holdings through the use of so called "private armies." While the size, composition, and strength of these forces varies considerably, their designation as "private" is a misnomer. They frequently consist of state-endorsed paramilitary forces and unofficial militia forces and have the direct support of local police and military personnel.

Nowhere in Mindanao in recent years have the complexities of these volatile forces been as evident as in the case of Ampatuans, the most powerful ruling family in Maguindanao Province. The Ampatuans, who are themselves Muslims, have been a loyal ally of sucessive national governments against Moro separatists. Fightings between the Ampatuans and the MILF leaders has at times been treated as "Rido," or clan conflict, but the actual situation is more complex. Ampatuan family members and other Maguindanao residents said that the conflict developed because the Ampatuans are identified with the Government f
Forces, because the Ampatuans perpetrate human rights abuses, and because they target emerging Moro leaders who are considered a threat to their power.

Human rights abuses by local officials backed by private armies continue to be a factor in drawing individuals into the MILF. A November 2004 confidential AFP memorandum on the effects of family feuds in Maguindanao reportedly stated that communities pillaged and looted by CVO and Special CAFGU members "often seek the protection of the MILF because they perceive the Military to be partial to the Ampatuans and his political allies" [sic]. Human Rights Watch documented several cases in which the victims of militia abuses joined the MILF. An MILF commander, "Commander Rustam," told Human Rights Watch: "Many people seek refuge from the Ampatuans (with) the MILF." For example, "Fayyad" evacuated from Datu Piang and sought protection in an MILF community after three of his relatives were killed in 2002 and 2003, allegedly by the Ampatuans and CAFGU members working with them. He told Human Rights Watch that he still cannot leave the MILF community in which he resides to go into Datu Piang town center or Cotabato City without an escort.

The Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM)

The ARMM oficially came into being on November 6th, 1990, after plebiscites took place in several provinces and cities in accordance with the Organic Act of 1989. Autonomy essentially arose out of the December 23rd, 1976 Tripoli Agreement, which ended the 1971-76 separatist conflict. The ARMM conmprises five provinces: Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, Sulu, Tawi Tawi, and Basilan, and one city, Marawi. It is the most impoverished region in the Philippines.

Cotabato City, which is predominantly Moro, is located within the boundries of Maguindanao, but is independent of the province and is not part of the ARMM.

The ARMM Government operates with a degree of autonomy. However, the President of the Philipines exercises general supervision over the regional governor to ensure that his acts are within the scope of his powers and functions, and has the power to suspend him. Aditionally, the National Government provides provincial, municipal, and city governments in the ARMM with the vast share of their annual budget via the Internal Revenue Allocation (IRA), creating a financial dependence that greatly limits autonomy.

Executive power in the ARMM is vested in the elected Regional Governor, assisted by a Cabinet. The Regional Legislative Assembly has the power to legislate "for the benefit of the people and for the development of the region." This power does not extend to issues such as National Security and Administration of Justice, though it may legislate on matters relating to Shari'a (Islamic Law).

The Philippine Government and MILF Peace Panels are currently preparing to negotiate an agreement that is expected to enhance ARMM autonomy by increasin both its geographical bounds and its political and economic powers. The Peace Panels negotiated such an agreement, the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain, in 2008. However, prior to the signing, scheduled for August 2008 in Malaysia, the Supreme Court of the Philippines issued a Temporary Restraining Order blocking it, on the Petition of local and national Christian political leaders. In October 2008, the Court ruled the Agreement un-Constitutional. The Agreement's collapse has been cited as one of the causes of renewed fighting in Central Mindanao in 2008 to 2009.

Rise of the Ampatuans

The Ampatuan family is a Moro Clan that lives in Maguindanao Province. Under successive Philippine Administrations since the 1980s, the Ampatuans have consolidated power and, over time, acquired control over the political, security, and commercial life of Maguindanao. Andal Ampatuan Sr., the family patriarch, was the Governor of Maguindanao from 2001 to 2009. His sons and other family members have held numerous elected and appointed Government offices. Most notably, Zaldy Ampatuan was the elected Regional Governor of the ARMM from 2005 to 2009 and Andal Ampatuan Jr., commonly known as "Datu Unsay," was the Mayor of Datu Unsay municipality from 2004 to 2010.

Andal Ampatuan Sr. first entered local politics in Maguindanao in the 1970s, following President Ferdinand Marco's declaration of Martial Law in the country. During this period, the Military perpetrated widespread human rights violations throughout the Philippines. Ampatuan Sr., went from commander of a paramilitary unit to Vice Mayor and then Mayor of Maganoy (now Shariff Aguak), a municipality in Maguindanao. Two years after the 1986 "People Power Revolution" drove Marcos from power, Ampatuan Sr. was reelected the Mayor of Maganoy in an election plagued by violence. For example, on December 30th, 1987, unidentified armed men ambushed the Campaign Manager of Ampatuan Sr.'s chief rival Surab Abutazil, and his two companions. In January 1988, an Election Aide was shot dead by unidentified assailants. And on January 5th, 1990, Abutazil was shot dead in broad daylight in the Maganoy town center after having challenged the legality of Ampatuan Sr.'s reelection.

Several residents of Maguindanao alleged that since the late 1980s the Ampatuans gained commercial power by using threats and unlawful force to acquire land. "Hassan," a former resident of Shariff Aguak, who said he was once close with Ampatuan Sr., told Human Rights Watch, "He would give the landowner two options: allow him to buy the land for P10,000 ($220) or choose the bullet." "Kedtog," a former community leader in Barangay Kuloy said that in 1988:

"We were called for a meeting with Andal Ampatuan Sr. Inside, on a table was a 45 caliber pistol and a sum of money put side by side in front of the old man (Ampatuan Sr.). We were asked which of the two we would choose...In Kuloy, almost all the villagers were forced to leave. There were thousands of hectares...They built fences around the (land) which (was taken)."

Kedtog said he did not go to the meeting with Ampatuan Sr., out of fear, but his 5 1/2 hectares of land was still forcibly taken. Only two landowners actually attended such meetings and "chose" the nominal payment. One landowner that attended such a meeting, "Akil," said that he chose to take the money, fearing he would be killed if he did not.

Through his lawyers, Ampatuan Sr., denied any allegations of forcible takeover of land, saying that the properties owned by the Ampatuan family have been "acquired through lawful transactions evidenced by contracts and duly issued titles."

In the early 1990s, the Vice Mayor of Maganoy, Paglala Bantilan, and several of his family members and supporters were killed after he announced he would contest Ampatuan's election. Those responsible were never brought to trial.

These killings and many other serious crimes allegedly carried out by Ampatuan family members were reported to President Arroyo in a May 2002 letter, some of which are detailed below:

• In July 1992, more than 20 men in fatigue uniforms armed with rifles and allegedly commander by "Commander Beri"- the head of Ampatuan Sr.'s militia at the time- killed a candidate for local government and his child, and wounded his seven year old child while they slept in their home in Maganoy (now Shariff Aguak), Maguindanao. The victim, Haji Usop Akmad, had run for Municipal Councilor in the May 1992 Elections. CAFGUs allegedly killed another of Akmad's sons later that year.

• In February 1994 Ampatuan Sr. allegedly killed Garcia Upham in Barangay Makir, Dinaig town (now Datu Odin Sinsuat). According to a witness, he had been sitting with Upham in a kiosk along the National Hiway in Makir when the nearly 50 vehicle convoy- including about six police cars- of Ampatuan Sr. passed by. According to the witness, Ampatuan Sr. "got out of the vehicle and shot (and killed) Garcia with his 45 caliber pistol. He then got back inside his car and drove on to Cotabato City.

• On March 14th, 1994, Zaldy Ampatuan allegedly gunned down cousins Akas Pagala and Rashid Mamalantong, Vice Mayor Bantilan's son, at a gas station in Cotabato City.

The Ampatuan family gained significant power when Ampatuan Sr. was elected Governor of Maguindanao in 2001, despite accusations of Electoral Fraud. He consolidated his power by giving family members various positions in the province and isolating mayors he did not consider loyal. He was reelected Governor in 2004 and ran unopposed in 2007. Until the 2007 elections, the majority of Maguindanao's 27 mayors were the sons, grandsons, or other relatives of Ampatuan Sr. Newspaper reports quoted Ampatuan Sr. as saying this dominance was due to "popular support...Because I am so loved by the constituencies of the municipalities, they ask me to have my sons as representatives." He added that "not a single candidate for the opposition dared to challenge his slate." In 2007, all but one of the town mayors allied with Ampatuan Sr. ran unopposed.

On June 9th, 2007, the Maguindanao school district supervisor, Musa Dimasidsing, who had exposed alleged Election Fraud, was shot dead in a madrassa (Islamic school) in Maguindanao during a brief power outage. No one has been prosecuted for his killing.

The Ampatuan family took advantage of Zaldy Ampatuan's position as Governor of the ARMM and their influence over the Regional Assembly to create new municipalities and strengthen their control over the region. In 2009, the Regional Assembly created the municipalities of Datu Hoffer, Datu Salibo, and Sharoff Saydona Mustapha. Zaldy Ampatuan used his power as Regional Governor to appoint Officers- in- Charge, including his wife, Bongbong Midtimbang Ampatuan, as Acting Mayor of Datu Hoffer Ampatuan; Akmad Ampatuan as Acting Mayor of Datu Salibo; and his sister in law, Ampatuan Jr.'s wife, Zandria Ampatuan, as Acting Mayor of Shariff Saydona Mustapha. Each of these Ampatuans was elected in the May 2010 Elections.

The arrests that followed the November 2009 Maguindanao Massacre appear to have weakened, but by no means eliminated Ampatuan power in the region. As a result of the May 2010 Elections, 8 of the 34 mayors in Maguindanao carry the Ampatuan name; still others are related to Ampatuan Sr. Only 6 of the 29 Ampatuan family members and allies accused of involvement in the Massacre are in custody: Andal Ampatuan Sr.,his sons Andal Jr., Zaldy, Anwar Sr., Sajid Islam, and son in law Akmad "Tato" Ampatuan.

Paramilitary Forces and Private Armies

"It would not be right to say 'private armies,' they are paramilitary units...They are created, armed, and funded by the Government."- A senior member of the Ampatuan family, General Santos City, Fenruary 21st, 2010.

" (Local governments) create civilian armed groups, thereby providing a cloak of legitimacy to the action of these groups who are presumed to be acting in accordance with their official duties, when more often than not they simply do the bidding of their political godfathers."- Justice Monina Averalo -Zenarosa, Chair of the Independent Commission Against Private Armies, May 5th, 2010.

State supported militias have existed in the Philippines since the late 1940s. The Government organised these paramilitaries to defend against Communist insurgents- first the Hukbalahap and later the New People's Army- and Moro separatist forces. Frequently the Army or police deployed them in offensive operations. Whatever their guise or official status, these militias have been responsible for widespread abuses against suspected rebels and ordinary civilians. Despite this, successive Philippine Governments have taken no serious steps to either dismantle or disarm the militias on a large scale. Over the years only a few members have been prosecuted for abuses, and none of their commanders have ever been charged on the basis of Command or Superior Responsibility.

In the 1960s, the paramilitary forces were called the Barrio Self Defense Units. Later that decade, President Ferdinand Marcos replaced these units with the Integrated Civilian Home Defense Force, which was enlarged in 1976 to include the Civilian Home Defense Force (CHDF). Each of these militias was implicated in numerous atrocities, though the CHDF was regarded as particularly brutal.

The post-Marcos Constitution of 1987 provided for the dismanteling of private armies and dissolving paramilitary forces. Despite President Corazon Aquino's July 1987 Order that paramilitaries be dissolved within 180 days, the Government merely replaced the CHDF with the Citizen Armed Force Geographical Unit (CAFGU). In 1989, the Government instituted a Special CAFGU Program, which alowed businesses to enter into a Memorandum of Understanding with the Armed Forces to effectively apply CAFGUs as armed security guards. Since then, CAFGU militiamen have been involved in serious human rights abuses.

Anti-insurgent "vigilante groups" have operated alongside the militias since the mid-1980s. These armed groups have taken various forms, from small religious sects such as the "Tadtad" (literall "chop chop") armed with "Bolo" (machete" knives, to mass based groups such as "Alsa Masa" (Masses Arise) in Davao City that had the open support of the authorities, including President Corazon Aquino. The Military increasingly armed and supported the vigilante groups with military weaponry and deployed them in offensive counterinsurgency operations, where they quickly became notorious for abuses and lack of accountability.

In 1986, many vigilante groups were officialy named Civilian Volunteer Organizations (CVOs) to give the appearance, if not the actual practice, of state regulation and control. The next year the Aquino Government issued guidelines on Civilian Volunteer Defense Organizations, ostensibly regulating the activities of such groups rather than disbanding them. The "Bantay Bayan" (People's Guard), the officially sanctioned CVO, was unarmed and was not to engage in counterinsurgency operations. These limits were not observed. In practice, the Bantay Bayan continued to operate as an auxiliary armed force that was repeatedly implicated in abuses. In September 1993, President Fidel Ramos issued an Administrative Order seeking to dismantle private armies, acknowledging that "there are Government officials and abusive personalities who utilize numerous AFP, PNP, or civilian bodyguards, as security personnel to the consternation of the general public." He ordered the AFP and the PNP to evaluate "the tactical necessity of all community defense forses (e.g. CAFGUs, CVOs, etc.) Organized according to law and immediately deactivate those which are no longer needed for counterinsurgency operations (Administrative Order #81, September 13th, 1993)."

In 1996, President Ramos empowered city and municipal mayors in the National Capital Region to organize, support, and finance local police auxiliary units in response to an increasing crime problem in Manila. However, these auxiliaries were not issued, or even permitted to carry firearms, nor were they to be detailed or assigned as general security of local officials.

As the threat from the New People's Army receded during the late 1990s, serious abuses by all sides declined. Successuve Philippine Administrations have publicly committed to disbanding CAFGUs, vigilante groups, and so called private armies from time to time, but efforts have been cursory. In 1998, the AFP announced that CAFGUs were disbanded, but they remained active in rural areas. In 2000, the CAFGU force still contained about 30,000 members.

In July 2001, President Arroyo's Government announced that the CAFGU force would be "revitalized" in Mindanao to fight against the Communist Insurgency. Today, the force comprises some 56,000 members. In 2004, the Special CAFGU Program was expanded to allow local governments, not just businesses, to contract Soecial CAFGUs. The Arroyo Administration also expanded and increasingly armed police auxiliary forces, comprised of members of CVOs and Police Auxiliary Forces.

In 2006, President Arroyo issued Executive Order #546, following major fighting between the Ampatuan's militia and the 105 Base Command of the MILF from June 28th to July 6th, 2006. This was interpreted as legal grounds to arm CVOs, which were previously only authorized to carry "a baton and a flashlight." The order authorized police to assist the Military in counterinsurgency operations and "Barangay Tanods"- unarmed, village-based law enforcement officers- to be used as "Force Multipliers," supposedly under police control. CVOs were armed on a selective basis.

In late 2006, the Armed Forces authorized four new Special CAFGU companies for the Ampatuans, each with 88 armed civilians and 12 soldiers ("The Philippines: After the Maguindanao Massacre" International Crisis Group, "Asia Briefing #98," December 21st, 2009). In August 2008, when hostilities again erupted between the MILF and Government Forces, the Interior Secretary Ronald Puno distributed more than 12,000 shotguns to police auxiliary forces in Central Mindanao's Conflict Affected Areas. The Armed Forces said that there were 2,000 Special CAFGU militiamen in Sultan Kudarat, North Cotabato, and Maguindanao at the time of the Massacre on November 23rd, 2009. Lieutenant General Raymundo Ferrer, the AFP Commander for Eastern Mindanao, told Human Rights Watch that in some areas, "CAFGUs make the problems worse because they are committing the abuse...Relatives bring them in as body guards and use them to harass the opposition."

In practice, the various paramilitary forces created in Maguindanao fell under the command of the ruling Ampatuan family. The Special CAFGUs were contracted directly to the Government units, run by the Ampatuans. The police and police auxiliary forces reported directly to the Ampatuans rather than to the police command structure. These armed men were then converted into the Ampatuan's private army, used not only to fight the MILF and the New People's Army, but to do the bidding of local politicians.

While this report focuses on militia abuses in Maguindanao Province, state backed militias perpetrate abuses throughout much of Mindanao and elsewhere in the country. As Lieutenant General Ferrer told the media, abuse of power and "warlordism" is not a phenomenon limited to the Ampatuans.

"(President Arroyo's) party expelled the Ampatuans, and got the Mangudadatus...Now they are they allies with the Masturas. The Masturas are also warlords, right? (The Mangudadatus have) many guns, and they have allied themselves with the Sinsuats. Those people have also have private armed groups, and they have not surrendered any firearms. Combine all their arms, and that's another group of warlords.'

In its report to President Arroyo, the Independent Commission Against Private Armies highlighted the existence of such groups in Surigao del Norte, Lanao del Sur, Davao City, Zamboanga del Norte, Tagum City, and Abra. Nowhere do the authorities take adequate steps to investigate and prosecute militia abuses or the Government officials who are responsible for their actions. A barangay official told Human Rights Watch, "The establishment of private armies of CVOs us an agreement between the Government, Governor, and the Military. Almost all the Mayors' political clans have their own CVOs." A senior member of the Ampatuan family echoed this, saying, "In all areas where there are insurgencies...(Governing families) are provided with CAFGUs and CVOs to promote peace and order in areas."


The preceding section on "paramilitaries," CAFGU, etc., is riddled with factual inaccuracies. In facr, I noted seven majot factual errors so, please just that entire section with a grain of sand. The last, and final part of this two part entry will begin where I left off, page 7.

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