(Philippine Daily Inquirer)
OUR AMNESTY group 1190 in Germany has written letters on human rights concerns to Israel, Cambodia, China, Burundi, Turkey, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Nepal, Honduras, Equatorial Guinea, Guatemala and Chad.
May I call attention to human rights abuses by militias, paramilitary groups and private armies. Everyone would agree with me that the authorities have the power to revoke an executive order that has had grave consequences for human rights in the Philippines? So far, however, former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s Executive Order No. 546 has not been rescinded. This 2006 presidential order directs the Philippine National Police to provide active support to the military in counterinsurgency operations, including deputizing militias and civilian volunteer organizations (CVOs) as “force multipliers.”
The full impact of the government’s tacit support for the private armed groups of local politicians became starkly clear on Nov. 23, 2009, when 57 people traveling in an election convoy were massacred in Maguindanao. Since then, former Maguindanao Gov. Andal Ampatuan Sr., members of his family and their private army have been arrested and charged in connection with the killings. Many members of his private army were part of CVOs, which the government had established and armed.
The system of authorization for armed groups which are then used as private armies remains intact.
After the Maguindanao massacre, then Senators Benigno Aquino III and Mar Roxas issued a statement demanding the “immediate revocation of Executive Order No. 546.” On April 22, near the end of his presidential campaign, Mr. Aquino said, “Our security forces must be directed to dismantle all private armies.” Although now commander in chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, President Aquino has yet to translate his words into action by disbanding and disarming these groups. Before the President’s election, his party announced as part of its platform: “The immediate task is to establish the conditions for a genuine human rights regime in the country.” In his first 100 days, however, the President failed to make human rights an immediate priority.
In losing his father, President Aquino has personal experience of a grave human rights violation and is now in a position where he can help protect the human rights of all Filipinos.
Group 1190, Amnesty International