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DND seeks P2-b fund for paramilitary troops

THE Department of National Defense and Armed Forces of the Philippines have asked Congress for a budget of more than P2 billion for paramilitary forces similar to the ones that have been accused of committing human rights abuses in Mindanao.

“Despite the killings and terror committed by its paramilitary groups, the Armed Forces of the Philippines has the nerve to ask for more budget to fund them,” Cristina Palabay, chairperson of the human rights group Karapatan said Friday.

“Straight from the horse’s mouth, the DND admitted there are more than 53,000 [Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Unit]and paramilitary forces under its command. The DND also said during the budget hearing that more than half of the Cafgu or about 30,735 are in Mindanao,” she added.

Ever since, operational budget and salaries of Cafgus and para-military forces has never been transparent in any military financial report, if there is any, which has long been suspected to be one of sources of corruption in DND and AFP, she said.

Palace also claimed the AFP has not been transparent in reporting the exact number of Cafgus, which supposedly includes the Magahat Bagani, which has been blamed for the evacuation of almost a thousand residents of Marihatag, Surigao del Sur last.

“Bobby Tejero, the same gunman who killed Dionel Campos and Datu Juvello Sinzo in Lianga, was seen by the residents approaching their community. He was in the company of the Special Forces unit of the Philippine Army led by Lt. Ralph Francisco. Evacuees also recounted to have seen another paramilitary group led by Calpet Egua shortly before they left their community,” Palabay said.

Another one is the Alamara, whose leader Lumansad Sibugan was sighted by parents, teachers and students who attended the Foundation Day celebration of the Salugpungan Ta ‘Tanu Igkanugon Community Learning Center in Talaingod, Davao del Norte on Sept. 28.

“Sibugan was among the three ‘datus’ recently presented by the AFP to the media in Manila in an attempt to cover up the accountability of the Army in the Lianga massacre and in the abuses committed in Talaingod, Davao del Norte that led to the evacuation of Lumad,” Palabay said.

“Each year, more than P2 billion are allocated to the AFP for its force multipliers. The DND wants more next year. The AFP definitely wants to strengthen paramilitary groups, instead of heeding the call to disband them, because they serve as cover to military atrocities in Lumad communities,” she said.

According to Karapatan, as of August 30, 2015 there are 77 documented cases of extrajudicial killings involving paramilitary groups. The number includes the killing of Italian priest Fr. Fausto Tentorio, Lumad leaders Datu Jimmy Liguyon and Henry Alameda, and anti-mining activist Juvy Capion and her two children.

“The number of victims will definitely increase, if the AFP will be given more funds for this,” Palabay said.

She said the military has been forcibly recruiting Lumad into the paramilitary groups such as the Barangay Defense Force and the Alamara paramilitary group as shown in the case of Barangay White Culaman, Kitaotao, Bukidnon and in Talaingod Davao del Norte, respectively.

“Those who refused to be recruited were automatically considered as members of the New People’s Army,” Palabay said.

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