Duterte says no to Ilaga, vigilante groups

DAVAO CITY – Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte opposes the creation of anti-Moro vigilante groups saying it cannot solve the ongoing conflict in Mindanao.

The mayor reacted to reports that Ilaga–a notorious anti-Moro group back in Martial Law years–was revived and vigilante groups are now being formed following the clashes between the government troops and Moro rebels in Central Mindanao.

Clashes between the government troops and some disgruntled commanders of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) erupted after the failed signing of the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) last month, which would have granted the Moro rebels their own territory under the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity (BJE).

Duterte said he is against the formation of a group whose “sole purpose is vendetta” because it will only lead to the killing of more people.

The Reform Ilaga Movement warned the MILF to stop their “harassment and attacks” against the civilians in Mindanao late last month, vowing to kill 10 MILF members for every civilian killed.

Vice Governor Emmanuel Piñol of North Cotabato also said he will oppose the arming of Ilaga, saying the resurgence of this vigilante group will only worsen the situation in Mindanao. The North Cotabato province came out with a resolution to look into the group’s revival.

But Khaled Musa, MILF’s deputy secretary of the committee on information, blamed Piñol and other “ultra-rightist” politicians in Mindanao for the resurgence of the Ilaga.

In the MILF’s official website luwaran (http://www.luwaran.com/modules.php?name=News&file=article&sid=879), Musa said Piñol is behind the arming of the Ilaga, infamously nicknamed by Moro fighters as the Ilonggo “landgrabbers” association, because of the group’s penchant to take over the lands of Moro communities after violence erupts and Moro people flee their lands.

Musa called Piñol Ilaga’s “over-all commander” and the worst “grabber” of Moro and indigenous peoples’ lands in M’lang, Magpet and Kidapawan in North Cotabato; and in Columbio in Sultan Kudarat.

Piñol’s brother, North Cotabato Representative Bernardo Piñol, was quoted saying that former local officials are supporting and arming the Ilaga. He said civilians are arming to defend themselves and are already involved in the offensive.

In this report from Sunstar-Cagayan de Oro (http://www2.sunstar.com.ph/static/cag/2008/08/29/news/dilg.justifies.arming.civilian.html), Interior and Local Government Secretary Ronaldo Puno told reporters in August that his office will push through with the plan of arming civilian police auxiliaries in Mindanao to defend communities against the Moro rebels. Puno said it is part of the PNP’s (Philippine National Police) “internal security plan.”

In another report, (http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/breakingnews/nation/view/20080820-155830/PNP-sending-shotguns-to-Mindanao-auxiliaries) PNP Director General Avelino Razon also announced the distribution of at least a thousand shotguns to police auxiliaries recruited in regions nine, 10, 11 and 12. Razon said that if the project succeeds, 12,000 more shotguns will be up for distribution.

Razon said the PNPs move is legal based on Executive Order 546, which grants the PNP an active role in internal security operations, in support of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). The executive order also allows the PNP to deputize Barangay tanods as “force multipliers” in the peace and order plan, if approved by the peace and order councils.

GMA News TV (http://www.gmanews.tv/story/116211/Civilian-police-auxiliaries-to-go-after-NPA-too—PNP) also reported PNP Chief Supt. Nicanor Bartolome in a Camp Crame media briefing in August , saying that civilian police auxiliaries will not only be used against the Moro rebels but against the Communist rebels as well.

The Communist Philippine Revolution website (http://www.philippinerevolution.net/cgi-bin/ab/text.pl?issue=200001-02;lang=eng;article=13) linked Ilaga to the 1977 massacre of some 200 individuals, including women, children and elderly folk from the Moro tribes of Singgil and Kalagan; and the lumad tribes of B’laans and Manobos.

One of the Ilaga leaders, Norberto Manero Jr., also known as Kumander Bucay, was convicted for the brutal killing of Italian priest Fr. Tullio Favalli in Tulunan, North Cotabato in 1985. Manero was later set free.

The group Ilaga was also charged with cases of human rights violation including rape and arson. (Marilou Aguirre-Tuburan/davaotoday)

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