24 private armies dismantled in Philippines

13:24, March 25, 2010      

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The Independent Commission Against Private Armies (ICAPA) in the Philippines reported on Wednesday that the Armed Forces and the National Police have dismantled 24 of the 112 private armies existing in the country, a month and a half away from the national and local elections.

Monina Zenarosa, chairperson of ICAPA, said in a news briefing that they will ask President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to extend the life of the body until after the May 10 elections, and to possibly consider making the commission permanent.

"As of yesterday, there are only now 88 private armed groups that are left after the military and the police were able to disband 24 of them. Thus, more or less, 22 percent of the total PAGs (private armed groups) that were reported last year," ICAPA spokesperson Herman Basbano said.

He said that the disbanded PAGs are "not typical small-time private armed groups based on the initial reports given by the police" and many come from areas considered as "hotspots."

"The police was telling us from the information that they've arrested people who are in the middle level up to the higher hierarchy of some of these private armed groups," he added.

The Philippine president created the commission on Dec. 8, 2009, following the Nov. 23 massacre of 57 people in Maguindanao that has involved the Ampatuan clan and its private army.

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