The Philippine Army will disband its paramilitary force in four years, when the military foresees the significant weakening of the armed insurgencies.
“In the future as we downsize the armed forces, the first to go will be the paramilitary forces,” said Lt. Gen. Emmanuel Bautista, the Army commanding general.
“We cannot forever be having paramilitary forces in the future. When the situation improves… when our campaign plan is finished, there will be no need for paramilitary forces,” he said.
The goal is to let go of more than 50,000 Citizen Armed Forces Geographical Unit (Cafgu) and Special Citizens Active Auxiliaries (SCAA) troops once the military has transitioned to external defense by 2016, Bautista said.
But for now, the Army still has to rely on Cafgu units since there are not enough ground troops to cover remote areas, he said.
“We cannot expand our regular force due to budgetary constraints… (But) we see the militias being disbanded. That is the future we envision,” Bautista told a forum at Ateneo de Manila University Wednesday.
Dismantling of Cafgu units
He said their target is to dismantle Cafgu units “within the time frame of the Bayanihan,” referring to the AFP’s counterinsurgency strategy under the Aquino administration until 2016.
The AFP under the Aquino administration has shifted from the traditional mainly combat approach to defeating insurgencies implemented by Oplan Bantay Laya under the previous Arroyo administration.
Under Bayanihan, the AFP recognizes the equal importance of a noncombat approach and is focusing on involving other stakeholders and upholding human rights and peace talks to end the armed conflict.
The AFP hopes the new strategy will substantially reduce the armed threat from the communist New People’s Army and the secessionist Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) so the military can concentrate on dealing with external threats and leave internal security to the police and local government units.
“The objective of Bayanihan is to win the peace. We would have achieved the peace when Bayanihan is finished. Therefore there will be no need anymore for the deployment of Cafgus and even our regular forces for internal security,” he said.
Bautista placed the number of Cafgu troops at between 50,000 and 60,000. Cafgu members receive a P90 daily allowance for part-time duty.
As for the reported abuses committed by Cafgu troops, Bautista admitted that “the level of discipline is very different” between paramilitary troops and regular Army soldiers.