Tribal militias illegal–Army
DAVAO CITY—The military is monitoring the movement of militias following an order by President Duterte for the armed forces to rein in paramilitary groups tagged as responsible for a spate of killings of lumad leaders and the displacement of thousands of tribal people from their homes.
“There’s only one legal paramilitary group and that’s the Cafgu (Citizen Armed Forces Geographical Unit),” said Capt. Rhyan Batchar, public affairs chief of the Army’s 10th Infantry Division (ID). “All other armed groups are illegal,” he said.
Batchar made the statement amid a call made by Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate, of the partylist group Bayan Muna, for the military to immediately heed Mr. Duterte’s order.
Zarate said the military should quickly disband and disarm militias that were created to help in counterinsurgency operations but were used to harass lumad communities that refuse to turn against communist rebels.
Batchar said the regional army based in Compostela Valley is closely monitoring the activities of illegal armed groups to prevent them from sowing terror in far-flung communities.
Batchar made the announcement in response to Mr. Duterte’s order for the military to stop militias from further harassing lumad communities.
According to Zarate, however, the “persecution of lumad in Mindanao remains unabated” and is largely the work of anti-communist paramilitary groups.
“Our government should not stand idly by,” he said.
But Batchar said the 10th ID had already ordered soldiers to monitor the activities of armed groups, like the Alamara, a tribal militia.
The military, Batchar said, would not allow militias to roam freely and harass residents of upland communities.
Operations “to secure the people” are also ongoing against militias in areas under the jurisdiction of the 10th ID in the Davao region and parts of Caraga and Northern Mindanao.
Batchar said the 10th ID has not monitored the operations of militias since peace talks resumed between the government and communist rebels.
Militias, like Bagani and Alamar, have been blamed for a spate of attacks on lumad communities that left several lumad leaders dead and thousands of lumad fleeing their homes in the provinces Bukidnon, Davao del Norte, North Cotabato and Surigao del Sur.
On Thursday, the President asked the military to “take full control” of the militias.
“I am now ordering the Army to take full control of the Bagani Command and the…there is another group I forgot the name, so many,” Mr. Duterte had said
Last year, at least 3,000 lumad from from the towns of Lianga, Marihatag, San Agustin, San Miguel and Tago sought shelter in the sports complex in Tandag City in Surigao del Sur following attacks by the Magahat-Bagani paramilitary group.
Majority of the displaced lumad came from the village of Diatagon, in Lianga where Magahat-Bagani members killed Emerito Samarca, executive director of the Alternative Learning Center for Agriculture and Livelihood Development (Alcadev), a school for lumad children.
Samarca was found tied with a stab wound and his throat slit inside a classroom in Alcadev on Sept. 1 last year. Frinston Lim and Karlos Manlupig, Inquirer Mindanao