Monday, 11 January 2010

Military ready to dismantle private armies

Rene Acosta
Business Mirror

THE Armed Forces is ready to implement the all-out campaign to dismantle private armed groups and seize loose firearms in order to help ensure the sanctity of the 2010 elections, Defense Secretary Norberto Gonzales said.

Gonzales made the announcement during the meeting of Catholic, Protestant and Muslim religious leaders in Davao City over the weekend. He said the soldiers are ready to launch the campaign as soon as the Commission on Elections (Comelec) issues the order.  

“The Armed Forces does not need to wait for the recommendations from the Presidential Commission on Private Armed Groups before proceeding with the campaign,” he said.

The commission was created by President Arroyo to investigate the existence of private armies and make a recommendation in four months on how to dismantle them.

Saying he was “very disturbed about the future of the nation,” Gonzales appealed to the military and religious leaders to work together in eliminating private armies and loose firearms.  

He said he worked at bringing together the two institutions during the 38th Bishops-Ulama Conference (BUC) General Assembly because they are the “two most important institutions in the country in protecting democracy and triggering societal change.”

The BUC assembly was convened by Archbishop Fernando Capalla of the See of Davao, Bishop Hilario Gomez Jr. of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines and Hamid Barra of the Ulama League of the Philippines.

The assembly was also attended by the Armed Forces chief of staff, Gen. Victor Ibrado, who brought with him the commanders of the three major services, area commanders and division commanders.

The National Police chief, Director General Jesus Verzosa, was represented by Chief Supt. Jaime Milla while Elections Commissioner Elias Yusoph represented Comelec Chairman Jose Melo.

Other officials of the defense department also attended the gathering.

Gonzales asked the bishops and the ulamas to help the military in convincing people with loose firearms to surrender them, even as he committed the service of the military in providing security to the religious leaders.    

Gonzales said religious leaders could also use the pulpit in helping raise the consciousness of the people about the urgent need to eliminate private armies and loose firearms so as to generate popular support for the campaign.

The BUC leaders promised to convene their respective groups to come up with concrete ways how they can help in the campaign against loose firearms and private armies.

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