IN THE KNOW: Alsa Masa
Alsa Masa was a vigilante group that was instrumental in weakening the communist New People’s Army (NPA) in Southern Mindanao in the 1980s.
It was credited for the near demise of the communist movement in Davao City and surrounding areas but became dreaded after it morphed into a killer group that targeted suspected communist supporters and sympathizers.
Alsa Masa was founded in early 1984 by Agdao Barangay Captain Wilfredo “Baby” Aquino, a follower of then President Ferdinand Marcos.
Aquino was shot dead in November 1985, reportedly by an NPA urban hit squad.
Alsa Masa was revived in April 1986 by Lt. Col. Franco M. Calida, then chief of the Davao Metro District Command.
In 1987, then President Corazon Aquino issued Executive Order No. 264 forming a militia group, Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Unit (Cafgu).
The Cafgu replaced the Integrated Civilian Home Defense Force and the Barrio Self-Defense Unit, which had dismal records in the observance of human rights.
Members of Alsa Masa were later considered for recruitment into the Cafgu.
The late Juan Porras Pala Jr., a popular radio commentator in Davao and a critic of President Duterte when he was still the city’s mayor, had served as a spokesperson for Alsa Masa.
In March 2000, Pala warned that the planned recruitment of 35,000 Cafgu members would mean more human rights abuses.
He said he abandoned his anticommunist crusade after realizing that the root of the insurgency was “not the [communism] but poverty and inequality.
“Even if you kill thousands of communists, the insurgency problem will not end unless we solve the root of the problem,” he said.
Pala also claimed that some of those who joined Alsa Masa after it was created in 1994 were “hoodlums, snatchers, holdup men” and other people with criminal records.
He said the recruitment of these criminals into Alsa Masa was approved by ranking military officials “because they can be used in the anti-insurgency campaign.”
Pala was assassinated in September 2003.
In September 2017, police in Calabarzon (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon) said they were building a network of spies to target criminals, drug suspects and communist rebels, but composed of civilians with barely any formal training in intelligence operations.
Dubbed “Community Mobilization Project (CMP)” the network has been compared to Alsa Masa. —Inquier Research
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