Militias’ presence in Lumad communities will spoil peace talks – Karapatan

Sep. 26, 2016

DAVAO CITY, Philippines — The continued presence of government-backed paramilitary groups in Davao region’s Lumad communities will spoil the ongoing peace talks between the government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, a human rights group spokesperson said earlier today.

Jay Apiag, spokesperson of Karapatan-SMR, said the issue of displacement and abuses will remain a problem as long as the AFP-backed militias stay in the civilian communities.

“Even President Duterte ordered the AFP to take control of the paramilitary groups, we believe that conflict will still exist unless a military pull-out will happen,” he said, noting that Duterte’s order to AFP to take control of the militias, is a “positive development.”

“For us this is a positive development under the Duterte administration. In fact, we want the government to dismantle and disarm these paramilitary groups because they threaten the peace and order in Lumad communities in Davao region,” Apiag told DavaoToday.

Karapatan said at least 25 paramilitary groups across the country were backed by the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

For Apiag, the operations of AFP-backed militias in civilian communities disrupted the people’s normal way of life. He attributed the military operations to the continued “displacement and abuses” brought upon by these paramilitary groups. “This is true across the country and not only here in Davao region like the case of Lumad who are still in Haran compound.”

He also expressed his strong opposition to the proposal of AFP Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Ricardo Visaya that AFP-backed paramilitary groups will be enlisted as members of the Civilian Auxiliary Force Geographical Unit (CAFGU).

“We hope the President would grant our appeal to dismantle and disarm these paramilitary groups. If not, there’s still possibility that displacements, killings and other forms of human rights violations will continue as long as the AFP is funding and arming them,” he appealed.

For Ma. Loida Magpatoc, NDFP peace consultant, the presence of the military and the AFP-backed paramilitary groups in civilian communities through the government’s Peace Development Outreach Program will not be beneficial to both parties engaged in peace talks.

Magpatoc said PDOP only legitimizes the intelligence gathering of the military against the New People’s Army. The NDFP peace consultant dismissed claims by the military that PDOP brings socio-economic programs in the community.

“What reform programs are they saying? In fact, they are bringing different types of vices and cause massive displacements of the people in the communities where they are assigned,” Magpatoc told Davao Today in an interview on Friday, September 23.

Magpatoc maintained that government’s PDOP was operationalized “to disrupt peace” through the military’s harassments, intrigue and abuses.(With a report from Zea Io Ming C. Capistrano/

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