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COMMUNITY SPY FORCE

No plan to revive Alsa Masa, says PNP

The Philippine National Police on Monday denied it was going to revive Alsa Masa, the 1980s network of civilian informers that morphed into a vigilante group that was accused of widespread human rights abuses.

Chief Supt. Edward Carranza, Calabarzon (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal, Quezon) regional police director, was
reported on Sunday as saying the PNP was considering expanding its Community Mobilization Project (CMP) into an intelligence-gathering network that would be “like Alsa Masa.”

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But Chief Supt. Benigno Durana, spokesperson for the PNP, told reporters on Monday that it was “not a policy and it will never be a policy of the PNP to revive this concept of Alsa Masa nor to adopt in whatever form the concept of the Alsa Masa.”

Durana explained that what Carranza spoke about was the expansion a “community policing project” that would include members of the Church and academia and business groups in discussions of and search for acceptable solutions to public security problems.

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When Carranza compared the project to Alsa Masa, he was most likely referring to the vigilante group’s “good point” of promoting volunteerism in the community, Durana said.

Earlier on Monday, senators cautioned the PNP about the plan.

Information gathering

Under the CMP, clusters of families are tasked with collecting and passing on intelligence about drug and crime suspects and communist insurgents and their supporters.

Police then investigate the information.

Sen. Francis Pangilinan asked the PNP to “seriously reconsider” the idea.

Pangilinan took note of Alsa Masa’s abuses in the past in the name of fighting communism and keeping law and order, and expressed concern that the new movement would give law enforcers more leeway to commit abuses.

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“I am afraid it is giving the corrupt and abusive policemen more teeth to rape, to kill and to commit crimes against unarmed citizens,” Pangilinan said in a text message.

“Reviving it may, in fact, be a recipe for rampant atrocities and abuses,” he added.

Sen. Aquilino Pimentel III was also wary about what the PNP could do.

“We should be concerned with our PNP nowadays given the number of arrested people dying while in their custody. This is not a good situation regarding law enforcement in our country,” Pimentel said.

Sen. Panfilo Lacson, a former PNP chief, also warned that the formation of an Alsa Masa-like group “could be a very dangerous move, especially if it spins out of control.”

Lacson noted that the Kuratong Baleleng group of Octavio Parojinog operated in Mindanao against communist insurgents with the military’s imprimatur.

But the group eventually turned to a life of crime as a career because of the absence of a well-planned and structured exit program, he said.

“If the PNP adopts the same method without seriously considering the lessons of the past, we could have a serious peace and order problem in our hands,” Lacson said.

Extrajudicial killings

Sen. Risa Hontiveros said the plan to revive the network of community informers may give rise to more extrajudicial killings.

Hontiveros took note of Alsa Masa’s reputation as a “dreaded” paramilitary group known for its lawlessness, human rights abuses and extrajudicial killings of suspected enemies of the state.

“For the PNP to draw inspiration from this group to allegedly deepen its relationship with the communities and augment its antidrug campaign is not only foolish, [but also] tacit approval of the group’s atrocious legacy and an invitation to more extrajudicial killings,” Hontiveros said in a statement.

The top police official in Quezon province, Senior Supt. Osmundo de Guzman, sought to ease fears about the planned network of informers.

“I have yet to receive a memorandum extending the CMP into an Alsa Masa-type civilian network,” De Guzman said by phone.

He said the implementation of the CMP in Quezon had been successful, suspected drug pushers and wanted criminals getting arrested.

Assure the nation

The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) called on the government on Monday to assure the nation that the proposed revival of Alsa Masa would not worsen violations of human rights in the country.

“The government must assure the country that this would not follow the history of the Alsa Masa in the 1980s known for its abuses, especially that the government has yet to resolve allegations of human rights violations allegedly linked to the current government drug campaign,” Jacqueline Ann de Guia, spokesperson for the CHR, said in a statement.

While the Alsa Masa concept seemed to be “tapping the spirit of volunteerism,” De Guia said, the government should “ensure adherence to strict guidelines in its implementation that would prevent violations of human rights, including respect for due process and the rule of law.

New York-based Human Rights Watch also expressed alarm at the PNP plan, saying it would only make human rights violations “more structured and systematic.”

“Due process and the presumption of innocence are just two of the civil liberties that will be violated under this plan,” HRW said in a statement on Monday.

“This intelligence network, for all practical purposes, usurps the function of the courts to determine the culpability of a person accused of a crime and, worse, give the police justification to harm or kill suspects without due process of law,” HRW said. —With reports from Vince F. Nonato, Delfin T. Mallari and Maricar Cinco

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TAGS: Alsa Masa, Aquilino Pimentel III, Benigno Durana, CMP, Community Mobilization Project, community policing project, Edward Carranza, Francis Pangilinan, intelligence-gathering network
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