Philippines: Taking Down The Untouchables


April 8, 2010:  After the Ampatuan clan militia massacre last November, the government was forced to acknowledge the existence of private armed groups, or PAGs. After two months, the total reached 88, since then it has gone to 112. The existence of PAGs is embarrassing, because many of these private militias are controlled by local politicians who support the national government, and were allowed to form (often with help from the army and national police) to help in the fight against Moslem (MILF) and communist (NPA) rebels. Many of these militias have been around for over half a century, and their leaders are often local landlords or businessmen. This mix of politics, economics and private militias often went rogue, as was seen to horrific effect last November, leaving 57 dead.  Many of the PAGs continue to receive weapons, training and other assistance from the government. The problem has been the lack of supervision, mainly because the national level politicians did not want to offend their local supporters by questioning how the private armies were used. Often, PAG members were used to intimidate voters during elections, or for purely criminal activities.  The 112 PAGs have about 4,000 members. About half the PAGs are recognized as participating in illegal activities. The government is under increasing pressure to crack down. These illegal activities have been an open secret for decades, but prosecuting the PAG leaders means taking on powerful local families, who provide political and economic support for national political parties and politicians.

April 4, 2010: In the south, kidnappers attempted to seize two foreign businessmen. One, a German, managed to get away. But the other, a 72 year old Swiss man, was taken. This sort of thing is bad for tourism, although visitors have been warned, for years, to be careful when visiting the Moslem south.

March 29, 2010: A court dismissed the rebellion charge against 24 people accused of instigating the massacre in the south last November. The government has charged 197 people with murder.

March 28, 2010: In a two day operation, troops on Jolo captured an Abu Sayyaf camp. At least 25 of the Islamic rebels lived in the camp, and at least one was killed during the operation. Most of the rebels got away, as the troops arrived in helicopters.

March 26, 2010: In the south, NPA rebels attacked a village, killing one militiaman and wounding two other. The self-defense militias are government sponsored groups meant to keep the NPA from terrorizing villagers into supporting the rebels.

March 23, 2010: In the south, NPA rebels destroyed construction equipment at an irrigation project. The construction company had refused to pay "protection" money to the communist rebels (which is how the NPA sustains itself).





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