By Roy Morilla, Lakbayan pointperson in Mindanao
and Gerry Albert Corpuz, senior reporter, The Pamalakaya Times
Davao City, Philippines-Organizers of the 10-day Pambansang Lakbayan ng Anakpawis Para sa Lupa at Katarungan on Wednesday assailed the decision of the Commission on Election (Comelec) exempting the Civilian Active Auxiliaries (CAA) from the total gun ban.
In a joint press statement, the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), the fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) and Anakpawis party list said the Comelec decision is extremely dangerous, politically incorrect and fatally flawed, asserting that these CAAs formerly known as Citizen Armed Forces Geographical Units (CAFGUs) are commissioned as private armies and armed goons by warlord politicians all over the country.
“The Comelec decision exempting CAFGUs from the total gun ban is a major political, legal and moral blunder. The poll body merely puts a legal blanket to the killing spree and human rights violation activities of these paramilitary units, which they perform in accordance with the cruel intention and sinister agenda of the sitting presidency in Malacanang, the pro-Arroyo military clique and their warlord allies,” the groups said in their statement.
KMP secretary general Danilo Ramos said the correct treatment of Comelec in dealing with CAFGUs is to officially disband these paramilitary groups due to their long-running violations of human rights at any given period. “The best way to address the issue is to call for the immediate and unconditional disbandment of CAFGUs, period, period, period,” the KMP official said.
For her part, Anakpawis secretary general Cherry Clemente said the tragic lessons drawn from the Nov.23 Maguindanao massacre last year should have compelled poll officials to direct the AFP to permanently dismantle all existing CAFGUs and quit from hiring fresh recruits to avoid if not minimize election related violence.
“Please allow us to reiterate the record straight–57 people were massacred by special CAA forces in Maguindanao last year. Is that a joke or a remote incident to Comelec? Where is their sense of human rights, justice and political sensibility?” Clemente added.
Comelec commissioner Lucenito Tagle yesterday said the CAAs are allowed to carry firearms because they are considered units of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, which are exempted from the nationwide gun ban imposed by the poll body during election period.
Organizers of Pambansang Lakbayan ng Anakpawis Para sa Lupa at Katarungan said aside from land and justice and concrete issues and struggles on agrarian reform, the grueling 10-day long caravan and long march from different parts of Mindanao, Central Visayas, Eastern Visayas, Panay, Negros, Bicol, Southern Tagalog, Central Luzon, Ilocos, Cordillera and Cagayan Valley regions to the National Capital Region will also call for the dismantling of CAFGU units across the country.
Under Comelec resolution 8742 made effective last January 11, amending Resolution 8714, the CAFGU was exempted from gun ban along with members of the Presidential Security Group, Bureau of Fire Protection, Optical Media Board, the treasurers and deputy treasurers and members of the Internal Security Division of the Bureau of Treasury.
Prior to Comelec promulgation of Resolution 8714, Rear Admiral Alexander Pama, commander of the Naval Forces Western Mindanao opposed the disarming of CAAs because these paramilitary groups are tapped by fishing companies to secure their venture in the South. For his part, Lt. Gen. Ben Dolorfino, chief of Western Command said as far as the military is concerned, the CAFGUs are part of the military organization and not all CAFGUs are utilized by private companies operating in far flung areas.
As of press time, organizers said 50 peasant and fisherfolk activists belonging to KMP, Pamalakaya and Anakpawis party list from Mindanao island will embark on their way to Liloan, Leyte, while the Visayan leg of the 10-day Lakbayan composed of 100 farmers and fishermen will start in Cebu before the caravan and march proceed to Calbayog City in Samar island.
From Samar, the joint contingent will proceed to Bicol on their way to Southern Tagalog and National Capital Region. The marchers are expected to cross Muntinlupa City on Jan.20 and will stage another long march on Jan.22 to Don Chino Roces in Manila on the occasion of the 23rd anniversary of Mendiola massacre.