03/10/2023, 14.41
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Philippine Army and militias: political murder reopens controversy

by Stefano Vecchia

Three officers involved in the killing of Negros Oriental province governor Roel Dergamo. The leaders of the armed forces under indictment promise to strengthen measures against the use of military techniques and forces for criminal purposes. But collusion with private militias in the pay of local potentates is a well-known scourge in Manila.

Manila (AsiaNews) - The assassination of the governor of Negros Oriental province, Roel Degamo, has reopened the debate on the role of the security forces in the Philippines.

On the morning of 4 March, while Degamo was busy arranging assistance initiatives with village leaders in his home in the city of Pamplona, a dozen men in military uniform opened fire, killing - in addition to the governor - eight people and wounding several others.

So far, four suspects have been arrested for murder and attempted murder, including three army officers, two of them from elite units, who had gone off duty without authorisation. A fourth soldier was killed during the manhunt after the attack. An organised action, carried out coldly, which showed the military preparedness of the attackers.

It is no coincidence that, in an interview with the Dzbb radio network, the Armed Forces spokesman, Colonel Medel Aguilar, announced that the chief of staff had ordered that the intelligence service assigned to such cases be strengthened and that 'precautionary measures be put in place so that capabilities acquired within the military organisation cannot be used for criminal actions'.

In the face of criticism that has also come from politics, the top brass of the army, air force and navy have reiterated their commitment to tighten up the recruitment process to ensure that training and the ability to carry weapons do not go to individuals predisposed to violence.

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. stated that he considered the killing of Degamo, referred to as a politician attentive to the needs of the population, to be politically motivated, and ordered the relevant authorities to identify the places where such attacks could occur, dismantling private militias in the pay of local political or economic potentates, in many cases known to Manila, who also use elements from the armed forces.

Marcos, who so far has not wanted to expressly point the finger at the military commanders or the police even though they are accused of violence and abuses that are largely covered up or unpunished, pointed out that the authorities have a wealth of information at their disposal and that they have clear indications on how to bring those responsible to justice.

Just last month, the governor of Lanao del Sur province, Mamintal Alonto Adiong Jr, had been injured in an attack on the convoy of cars he was travelling in and four of his bodyguards had been killed. And on 19 February, this time in the northern province of Nueva Vizcaya, the mayor of Aparri had been killed with five others travelling with him by killers on motorbikes wearing police uniforms.

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