Press Release
December 7, 2009


Opposition Sen. Chiz Escudero yesterday called on the military and police to take immediate steps at disarming private armies of all known warlords, specifically in provinces deemed hot spots by the Commission on Elections (Comelec), to reduce the possibility of political vendettas and electoral violence.

"If only one group or clan is disarmed and not their political opponents, you might see another massacre with the other clan being the next victims," the 40-year-old lawmaker said.

Referring to the recent Maguindanao massacre, Escudero added that "it might just be a case of transferring the 'warlord's crown' from the Ampatuans to the Mangundadatus." He said it was time that the law was implemented to the fullest in all parts of Luzon, the Visayas and Mindanao. "All of this can be done without the declaration of martial law, since it is a peace and order problem. President Arroyo could have just called on the Armed Forces of the Philippines to suppress 'lawless violence'."

Among the provinces tagged political hot spots by the authorities based on their respective political histories as well as a current simmering feuds among identified political clans there are Abra, Basilan, Lanao del Norte, Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, Masbate, Nueva Ecija, Samar and Sulu.

"Unlicensed firearms have proliferated in these places and it has allowed private armies to rule with impunity through intimidation, resulting in the breakdown of law and order even during non-election years," Escudero noted.

As chairman of the Senate Committee on Justice and Human Rights, he said the murder of at least 60 people, including journalists, in Maguindanao last month is an indication of the failure of a firearms control program initiated by the Philippine National Police. "Both the military and police should take on these private armies as well as criminal gangs to prevent a repetition of the Maguindanao massacre."

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