AFP defends plan to deploy militias in mining sites

MANILA, Philippines – The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) today opposed calls by the Amnesty International (AI) to scrap plans to deploy militiamen in mining sites, saying that additional forces could thwart violent attacks against businesses.

AFP spokesman Col. Arnulfo Burgos Jr. also assured that the deployment of civilian militias would not lead to human rights violations.

“[The deployment of militia men] would enhance security in the area. This would prevent similar incidents,” Burgos said, referring to the attacks staged by communist rebels against three mining firms in Surigao del Norte early this month.

“As far as the AFP is concerned, human rights violations have never been tolerated in our ranks. We have given emphasis to the protection and promotion of human rights in all aspects of our security operations,” he added.

About 200 members of the New People’s Army (NPA) torched equipment and took hostage a number of mining employees of Taganito Mining Corp. (TMC) last October 4 in Claver, Surigao del Norte.

Another NPA group attacked the nearby Platinum Metal Group Corp. also in Claver. Three hours later, another mine site operated by TMC’s sister company THPAL Mining was also attacked. The total amount of property loss during the attacks was pegged at almost P3 billion.

President Benigno Aquino III has expressed support to proposals deploy militiamen to secure mining sites.

The AI urged the government to scrap its plan to deploy Civilian Armed Forces Geographic Units  (CAFGUs) in Mindanao, claiming that militiamen have a long record of human rights violations.

The AI said earlier that there have been reports by the Commission on Human Rights that militiamen, particularly members of CAFGUs, are behind the detention, torture, and killings of local community leaders.

The group said the military cannot ensure proper discipline and accountability for the militias and paramilitary groups.

Burgos said they are ready to act swiftly on the human rights cases involving any soldier or militia man.

“If there are human rights violations, we have a human rights office that is in touch with peace and human rights advocates. The cases would be acted upon immediately,” he said.

Burgos claimed that courses on human rights are part of the trainings given to civilian militias.

“In the administration of special CAFGUs (Civilian Armed Forces Geographic Units)… We have assigned one non-commissioned officer or enlisted personnel per 10 CAFGUs just to make sure they will adhere to principles on the protection of human rights,” he said.

Burgos stressed that the deployment of CAFGUs in mining sites was requested by mining companies who are concerned about their safety.

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