Police, military vow CAFGUs won’t be used as private armies during election period
MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine National Police, Armed Forces of the Philippines, and Commission on Elections vowed to ramp up efforts against private armed groups in the upcoming 2019 midterm elections.
“The PNP shall take a lead role in law enforcement against criminal syndicates and private armed groups with the support of the Armed Forces of the Philippines,” PNP chief Oscar Albayalde said in a press conference earlier Thursday afternoon.
Albayalde and Armed Forces chief Benjamin Madrigal Jr. promised that while the Citizen Armed Force Geographical Units would assist in securing elections, they would not be used as private armies for any politician.
“We assure you that the CAFGUs are under the operational control of the AFP commanders, they are deployed locally, they are ably led by our cadre commanders,” Madrigal told reporters.
“And of course the commanders on the ground, we’ll make sure if there are reports if there are CAFGU being utilized [by politicians], we’ll make sure that they are properly punished,” he added.
President Rodrigo Duterte signed Executive Order 69 last month, which gives financial aid to CAFGU members and militia units that assist the military in counterinsurgency operations.
The EO grants P7,000 in monthly cash assistance to members of the CAFGU Active Auxiliary for November and December.
While CAFGUs were set up with the intent to provide auxiliary support to sanctioned military operations, instances of militiamen acting as private armies of political clans have been well documented.
Following the Maguindanao massacre in 2009—also called the Ampatuan massacre—20 CAFGU members were arrested for suspected involvement in the mass killing of 58 people, including 34 journalists.
Madrigal assured the public that no CAFGUs were under the control of any politicians ahead of the May 2019 elections.
“We’re saying CAFGUs, in general, are our supervision and will be non-partisan and apolitical,” Madrigal said.
“They cannot be used by politicians, [we’re] very strict, especially itong security coverages [and] the AFP will be not be providing personal security to candidates, unless approved by Comelec,” the Armed Forces chief said.
“But we’ll provide area security to all candidates.”
According to Comelec Chairperson Sheriff Abas, he discussed with the police and military heads the overall security plans of the Bangsamoro Organic Law Plebiscite scheduled to take place between Jan. 21 and Feb. 6, 2019.
The campaign period for national elections begins on February 12 and ends on May 11; while local campaigns begin on March 29 and end on May 11.
Election day itself is on May 13.
Also discussed was placing Cotabato City — which was recently hit by a terror attack — under Comelec control.
“It will be headed by a task force, headed by a Comelec commissioner, and regional commander of the AFP/PNP, and they will be in charge of security management,” Abas said in a mix of Filipino and English.
Albayalde mentioned that there are other places that might be placed under Comelec control for the elections, although the poll body has finalized these yet.