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Watchdog wants Philippine armed groups dismantled

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Watchdog wants Philippine armed groups dismantled

Post  Admin on Sun Apr 25, 2010 1:53 pm

Watchdog wants Philippine armed groups dismantled AP - Sunday, April 25, 2010

Kenneth Roth, executive director of the U.S.-based Human Rights Watch, gestures during a press conference Saturday, April 24, 2010 in Manila's financial district of Makati, Phillippines. Roth pointed out that political killings will likely to continue after President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo steps down because neither of her two possible successors is committed to dismantling paramilitary forces allegedly responsible for most of the atrocities. (AP Photo/Pat Roque)
MANILA, Philippines Political killings in the Philippines will likely continue no matter who takes power in the upcoming presidential election because neither of the leading candidates is committed to dismantling paramilitary forces allegedly responsible for most of the atrocities, a U.S.-based human rights watchdog said Saturday.

The leading contenders _ Senator Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III and Senator Manuel Villar _ will continue to rely on the government-armed paramilitary groups that have become private armies for local warlords, including a powerful clan blamed for the massacre of 57 people last year, said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch.

Although both candidates recently told Roth they would not abolish the paramilitary units, he urged them in the May 10 elections to take a firm stand against human rights violations, particularly political killings such as the Nov. 23 massacre in southern Maguindanao province.

The victims included relatives of a political rival of the Ampatuan clan and 30 reporters and their staff, making it the worst attack on journalists in the world.

Clan patriarch Andal Ampatuan Sr., a former governor, and several of his sons _ all Maguindanao officials allied with President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo _ were charged with multiple murders. Most of the nearly 200 people accused in the case were pro-Ampatuan government-armed militiamen along with dozens of police and soldiers who support the clan.

Roth said the Philippines' reliance on civilian paramilitary forces _ which the government arms _ in part made the massacre possible. The government uses the forces as a backup, or "force multipliers," for the military and police in fighting communist and Muslim insurgents.

Until the government places security responsibilities entirely in the hands of a professional and disciplined army and police with a clear chain of command, "we are going to see a perpetuation of the problem of political violence that has so plagued the Philippines in recent years," he said.

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