Private Armies

The truth of the matter, as a foreign observer from the Wall Street Journal sees it:
FORMER Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro is the most viable candidate for the presidency next year because he is the only one with a “solid background in law and order,” according to an editor of the Wall Street Journal.

“None of the other front-runners in the 2010 presidential derby has a solid background in law and order,” Brett Decker, the business paper’s opinion editor, said in the daily’s online edition late last month.

“A volatile situation underscores the need for a leader competent in handling law-and-order problems,” he said.

(Sources: Manila Standard Today, Manila Bulletin)

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Why do civilian armed forces exist?
  • Civilian armed forces (“private army”) have historically been used by the government to help maintain peace and order in different parts of the country because the government lacks funds to hire additional regular military personnel and pay their employment and retirement benefits.

  • During Martial Law under President Ferdinand Marcos, there were paramilitary groups like the Civilian Home Defense Forces (CHDF). These groups were dissolved by the 1987 Constitution, but were replaced with citizen armed forces. On July 25, 1987, President Cory Aquino signed Executive Order (E.O.) 264, which created the Citizen Armed Force Geographical Units (CAFGU). On July 14, 2006, President Gloria Arroyo signed E.O. 546 which deputized barangay tanods and Civilian Volunteer Organizations (CVO). Local governments were directed to provide funding and logistical support for these units.

    (Source: NEWSBREAK, "Fast facts about CAFGU and paramilitary forces", December 27, 2008)

  • Former Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro said that the Philippines at present has only 120,000 regular soldiers for 90 million Filipinos living in 7,107 islands. In contrast, Malaysia has 128,000 soldiers for 26 million people living in one compact territory (not an archipelago), while Thailand has 300,000 soldiers for 80 million people.

  • (UPDATE Feb 22, 2010) Teodoro proposed during his speech at the Makati Business Club that smaller military units with elite training and surgical-strike capability can be used to wage unconventional warfare, instead of poorly trained paramilitary units which are prone to human-rights abuses. He said insurgency cannot be solved by a huge Armed Forces and an undetermined number of paramilitary troops. A huge military force will not address the basic problem of poverty that afflicts areas of conflict.

    (Source: BUSINESS MIRROR, "Teodoro eyes leaner, meaner military units to phase out civilian volunteers", February 22, 2010)

  • Why is it difficult to disarm citizen’s armies?
  • Sec. Teodoro said the volatile peace situation in Mindanao prevented the government from disarming private armies during his two-year term as Defense Secretary (August 2007 to November 16, 2009). There was an escalation of problems with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and there was a serious risk that war would erupt. Disbanding civilian forces who were helping maintain peace and order would have created more security problems.

    (Source: NEWSBREAK, "Gibo: Mindanao conflict made disarming private armies difficult", January 29, 2010)

  • A citizen’s army cannot be disarmed on the basis of suspicions alone, because E.O. 546 is still in force to augment the military’s limited regular soldiers with civilian troops to maintain peace and order in different parts of the country.

  • With E.O. 546 still in force, no matter how notorious the reputation is of a group such as the Ampatuans, a sufficient body of strong, incontrovertible, court admissible evidence of collective violation (not just scattered individual acts) is needed before search warrants or warrants of arrest can legally be executed to collectively disarm an entire army. Arrest or disarmament cannot be done based on hearsay or suspicions alone.

  • The November 23, 2009 Maguindanao tragedy left a trail of evidence of a collective criminal act that gave legal basis to conduct mass arrests and searches among the Ampatuans and their followers.

  • Where did the weapons of the Ampatuans come from?
  • There is an ongoing investigation by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to trace the origin of the weapons. Sec. Teodoro urged the AFP to make its report public once it is complete.

  • Sec. Teodoro said the Ampatuans’ arsenal of weapons could not have been acquired during his term because it is impossible for the Ampatuans to have built the kind of armory that they had in just two years.

  • Of the weapons found, Sec. Teodoro said only a small portion were government weapons. Only 34 out of the total weapons confiscated had serial numbers corresponding to the AFP, and only around 10% of the bullets confiscated were from the government.

    (Source: NEWSBREAK, "Gibo: Mindanao conflict made disarming private armies difficult", January 29, 2010)

  • How were the Ampatuans able to pilfer some weapons from the government?
  • This is part of what the AFP is investigating. Sec. Teodoro said the Department of National Defense (DND) has no operational control over the armory of the AFP. The AFP, not the DND, is in charge of the distribution of weapons.

  • The lawyer of the Ampatuans claimed to the press that Sec. Teodoro had a hand at arming the Ampatuans’ private army. Sec. Teodoro said this accusation was baseless, and challenged the lawyer to file a case in court if he had evidence.

    (Source: GMANews.TV, "Gibo dares Ampatuan lawyer", January 25, 2010)

  • * * *
    When Toto Mangudadatu said during his testimony at the Ampatuan trial on January 27, 2010 that Sec. Teodoro warned him about the Ampatuans, some media outlets reported that Mangudadatu was blaming Sec. Teodoro.

    Mangudadatu explained that what Sec. Teodoro told him was an expression of concern from a friend who wanted to protect him ("pagmamahal ng isang kaibigan" were Mangudadatu's exact words), and he was not blaming Sec. Teodoro. Mangudadatu issued this clarification, but the biased press did not carry it:

    From Manila Bulletin, February 3, 2010:
    Vice Mayor Esmail “Toto” Mangudadatu of Buluan town, Maguindanao has clarified that an attempt by Lakas-Kampi-CMD standard bearer Gilberto “Gibo” Teodoro Jr. to dissuade him to run against Gov. Andal Ampatuan Sr. in the gubernatorial race in Maguindanao elections before the gruesome murder of 57 persons last November 23 was not aimed at dislodging him from the political scene but a “sincere advice from a friend” wanting to protect him from possible aggression from the Ampatuans.

    In a press conference at the Linden Suites in Pasig City, Mangudadatu, whose wife Gennalyn was among those killed in the massacre in Ampatuan town, also reiterated his support to Teodoro’s candidacy.

    “Alam n’yo, ‘party man ako,’ at ang aking support kay Secretary Gilbert Teodoro ay hindi nababahiran yan at hindi maaalis ang aking support sa kanya (You know, I am a ‘party man,’ and my support to Secretary Gilberto Teodoro will never change),” Mangudadatu said.

    “At yung mga sinabi Secretary Gibo noon ay pagmamahal bilang isang kaibigan (The advice given to me by Secretary Gibo came from a ‘true friend’),” he said.

    Mangudadatu issued the statement in view of negative reactions from various sectors when he revealed during a hearing of the Maguindanao massacre case a week ago that Teodoro asked him not to engage Andal Sr. in the gubernatorial race because he considered him “a violent person.”

    Mangudadatu’s statement drew criticisms against the former defense chief for allegedly failing to provide protection to his family that led to the massacre incident.

    Others interpreted the vice mayor’s claims as Teodoro favoring the Ampatuan over him in relation to the tense political intramurals in Maguindanao.

    “They should not blame Secretary Gibo because he does not have operational control over the military forces in our area. The military commanders in the field are the ones in charge in the operations,” Mangudadatu emphasized.

    * * *
    Toto Mangudadatu, who suffered the biggest personal loss in the November 23, 2009 incident and who understands the situation in Maguindanao better than most people, does not blame Sec. Teodoro. Makes you wonder why certain columnists, amateur web pundits, and presidential candidates are acting more "affected" than Mangudadatu himself.