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Amnesty Int’l asks Aquino to call off plan to send militias to mining sites

/ 09:34 PM October 17, 2011

DAVAO CITY—An international human rights group has asked President Aquino to call off a plan to deploy government militias to augment the private security forces of mining companies facing possible attacks by communist rebels.

“The military cannot ensure proper discipline and accountability for the militias and paramilitary groups, creating an environment conducive to human rights violations,” the Amnesty International (AI) said in a statement released on Friday.

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“Mr. Aquino’s decision to deploy militias compounds this problem,” it added.

On Wednesday, the President approved a military proposal to have government militias beef up the security of mining sites. The suggestion was an offshoot of a recent attack carried out by communist New People’s Army guerrillas on three minerals extraction firms in Claver, Surigao del Sur.

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In December last year, Seneral Gregorio Honasan came up with a similar proposal after communist rebels announced their policy of punishing logging and mining firms causing massive environmental destruction.

Because of the threat, several large firms reportedly threatened to pull out of the country, bringing worries to a government which has banked on mining to stir economic development.

As it proposed, the Armed Forces will train the militias at the expense of requesting mining companies. The firms will also shoulder the paramilitary troops’ monthly pay.

The AI noted that the government militias “have a long record of human rights violations in the Philippines.” The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) have found the groups to be responsible for arbitrary detention, torture and harassment of community leaders.

The human rights watchdog also cited a United Nations report that said the deployment of militias in remote areas where mining sites operate put at risk the indigenous peoples’ communities.

It reminded government that it would remain responsible for human rights violations committed by the militias even if these are securing mining companies.

Kerlan Fanagel, regional coordinator of the indigenous group Kalumaran, said he was not surprised by the military’s moves to organize the special civilian active auxiliaries (SCAA) as part of the Investment Defense Force even during the time of then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

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He said the SCAA was used not only to protect mining firms but also to fight insurgents. But the paramilitary forces ended up targeting civilians and lumad leaders who oppose the entry of mining, he said.

“The history of paramilitary groups, for whatever purpose they’re set up whether to protect mining firms or to fight the insurgents, always results in human rights violations of civilians, particularly the lumad,” said Genasquez Enriquez, secretary general of the indigenous group Kasalo in Agusan del Norte and Surigao del Norte.  Reports from Ryan D. Rosauro and Germelina Lacorte, Inquirer Mindanao

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TAGS: Amnesty International, Armed Forces of the Philippines, Crimes, Military, Militia, Mining, Regions
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