The Armed Forces of the Philippines’ (AFP) refusal to stop using Special Civilian Armed Auxilliary (SCAA) to protect the interests of mining corporations demonstrates the AFP’s connivance with corporations that plunder the country’s mineral resources,” said Jigs Clamor, Deputy Secretary General of Karapatan, reacting to the statement of Colonel Arnulfo Marcelo Burgos, AFP public affairs chief that SCAA “would enhance security in the area and would prevent a similar incident to happen.” Col. Burgos was referring to the NPA attack in the mining sites in Claveria, Surigao del Norte.
Pres. Noynoy Aquino endorsed the use of SCAA, a move that indicates that he reneged on his campaign promise that he will dismantle paramilitary forces and private armed groups.
Col. Burgos’ claims that “human rights protection” is part of the government militiaman training. Yet, on June 30, 2011, SCAA members were implicated in the killing of the 40-year old Lumad leader Arpe “Datu Lapugotan” Belayong and Sulte San-ogan, 21, both residents of Esperanza, Agusan del Sur. The mountain area of Esperanza is marked for mining operations.
Fr. Fausto Tentorio, an Italian priest of the PIME congregation, who was killed by still unidentified men last last October 17, worked for decades among the indigenous peoples in the Cotabato area, especially in Arakan Valley. He was known for advocating indigenous people’s land rights against the incursions of big business especially by mining corporations. Fr. Tentorio was already a target by a paramilitary group called Bagani since 2003 when he almost lost his life. Arakan Valley is also target of mining operations.
The recent move of the Aquino government to allow mining companies to hire AFP-trained Special Civilian Armed Auxilliary (SCAA) may embolden similar paramilitary groups to attack those who oppose big mining corporations that plunder the country’s resources.
SCAA also served as security force for the DMCI Mining Corporation (DMCIMC) in Zambales, in TVI Mining in Zamboanga del Sur, and even in the sugar plantations in Negros. They were instrumental for a string of human rights violations against those oppose the mining operations in the communities.
Former Pres. Cory Aquino created the CAFGU (Citizens Armed Force Geographical Unit) and SCAA and were maintained as “force multipliers” and as an “embedded security system in all economic endeavors” by the past governments.
With the massive deployment of AFP and paramilitary and private armed groups in communities where there is mining operation, Karapatan warns of the resulting escalation of human rights violations in the communities. The people’s opposition to mining will surely be met with force and repression.
Clamor said, “The government claims that Oplan Bayanihan, its new counter-insurgency program, focuses on peace and development. Yet, this kind of development obviously puts primacy on the protection of the interests of mining corporations despite the environmental destruction and economic dislocation and displacement of the people in the mining areas.”
“This government should stop hiding from catch-phrases like “peace and development”, “people-centered”, “human rights” when obviously it is doing the opposite. If it wants to be true to these slogans, Pres. Aquino should immediately dismantle all paramilitary groups and stop the implementation of Oplan Bayanihan,” concluded Clamor. ###