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CAFGUs: a double-edged sword for the philippine counter-insurgency

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Andre Pereira

on 27 August 2013

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Transcript of CAFGUs: a double-edged sword for the philippine counter-insurgency

3 Explanations:
Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Unit: A Double-Edged Sword for Counter-insurgency
CAFGUs: security provision versus accountability shortfalls
Provides security to the local population
Guides and supports the army in remote areas
Lack of implementation of accountability checks for CAFGU's actions in the field.
Allegations of human rights abuses and participation in political rivalries by CAFGU members.
Research Question: Why the Government of the Philippines use the CAFGUs for their counter-insurgency strategy ?
1. They are simply cheaper than regular soldiers to train and equip, especially in remote areas. Army leaders and national politicians are also convinced that the AFP is too weak to deal with two insurgencies.
2. They are more effective than the army to conduct counter-insurgency operations.
3. They are valuable for the protection of political or economic interests that may stand outside of the national counter-insurgency strategy.
How did I do this research?
1. By patrolling their neighbourhood, assuring a military presence in the area.
2. By helping them preventing criminal felonies to happen
3. By assisting the Armed Forces of the Philippines to avoid insurgent presence in the area.
1. A CAFGU is an armed citizen derived from the local population. Therefore, he has a better knowledge of the areas to cover than regular soldiers.
2. Even if CAFGUs are used as guides for the army, they are also used as direct support in the frontline.
3. Even though the CAFGUs are subordinated to the army the latter are often dependent on CAFGUs informations and connections with local leaders for their operations.
1. Extrajudicial killings: more than a hundred in 2012, according to Karapatan. The government denies any of these cases.
2. Can be included in private armies at the service of local politicians or enterprises (SCAA)
3. Reports of extortion of money and intimidation (racketeering) against a population they are supposed to protect.
1. If there is a check for their action on the field, by a cadre, it is often underplayed in practice by the simple omission of reporting compromising events.
2. The army needs evidence of insurgents' activity for the creation of a CAFGU unit in a given region, but they are easily convinced of a threat. The labelling of leftist activists as « NPA sympathisers » by the army is being made without any proof.
Qualitative: The objective of this study is to ameliorate the comprehension of the dynamics between paramilitary groups, the army, and national and local leaders. In other words, it is an analysis of civil-military relations in the Philippines over the use of the CAFGUs The researcher conducted semi-structured interviews between May and August 2013.
Who has been interviewed ? 10 CAFGU members in Sultan Kudarat region (Southwestern Mindanao) and Negros Occidental. Four Human Rights advocacy group members. Two teachers from UP, a lawyer, a priest, a barangay leader, one former cadre and one active cacre, an ex-NPA member, and three political responsibles.
Why these interviews? Not enough scientific information on human right concerns with CAFGUs. Need for CAFGUs point of view on their role.
Historical overview
This research focuses on the period after 1986? The democratization was the occasion for the Government of the Philippines to review its ties with paramilitary groups. The Civilian Home Defense Forces (CHDF) was dissolved after many allegations of human right abuses during the Marcos era (EO 275). Ten days later, it has been replaced by the Citizen Armed Forces Geographical Uni (CAFGU)(EO 264). Up to date, there is still allegations of abuses by CAFGU members, especially where the army's oversight is weak.
1940's: Creation of the Barangay Self Defense Unit (BSDU)
1972: Institutionalization of the CHDF during martial law.
1986. After People Power, the CHDF are disbanded. They will be replaced ten days later by the CAFGUs
1992-2000: Sharp decrease in number of CAFGUs. From 75 461 in 1992, there will be 32 748 CAFGUs in 1998.
2001-: The number of CAFGUs are on the rise again. They are thought to be around 65 000 now.
What has been studied?
Paramilitary group (Mary Kaldor 2006 [1998]): « [...] Autonomous groups of armed men generally centered around an individual leader. Often these groups are established by governments in order to distance themselves from the more extreme manifestations of violence. »
Private Army: « [...] Armed groups raised and maintained by private interests [...] » (Small Arms Survey 2012)
How to study it?
Theoretical framework
1. Literature on civil-military relations will help understanding the instrumental importance of CAFGUs in the Philippine state.
3. Literature on the use of Private Military Companies would be useful to assess the difficulties of privatizing the state's security services.
Why should I use the case study ?
Indicators for each hypothesis
. It clarifies the causal link between the dependent variable (what is to be explained) and the independent variable (the one that explains).
. It shows regularities in the Government's decision to maintain paramilitary groups even though its officials have pledged to review their use since 1986.
. It can help guiding the researcher to new hypotheses that he has not thought about or unexplored explanations by the available literature on the subject.
Hypothesis Cost: Soldiers' wages and CAFGUs subsistence allowance's weight on the military budget. Comparison of cost of deployment, training, and equipment of both.
Note: Case selection bias has been avoided by choosing the Philippine case from the presence of many non-state armed groups, not from the use of paramilitaries.
Hypothesis Efficiency: reduction or rise of violence after the creation of a CAFGU unit in a given region.
Hypothesis extra-strategical interests : Presence of CAFGUs while small or no rebel activity.
Preliminary results
H1: It is cheaper for the Armed Forces of the Philippines to use CAFGUs than regular soldiers. CAFGU monthly allowance = 2700 php. Soldier wage: over 10 000 php
H2: The CAFGUs are not effective to conduct counter-insurgency tasks that aim to foster popular support. Allegations of human right abuses hinder the « winning hearts and minds » strategy.
H3: CAFGUs serve as valuable tools for politicians and economic investors to protect their stakes. For national leaders, CAFGUs show that a part of the local population supports the government. For local politicians, CAFGUs help protect their area, enhancing their legitimacy. For economic elites, CAFGUs protects their commercial activities (CAA and SCAA).
Supported by the existent literature, we can think of Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Unit as:
Why did I choose to do this research?
- Personal interest for Southeast Asian politics, especially in the Philippines.
- Interest for non-state armed groups and private political violence : insurgencies, private military companies, mercenaries, paramilitary groups.
- The presence in the Philippines of a wide variety of these non-state armed groups sparked my interest for the study of the use of paramilitary groups to fight the ongoing insurgencies.
4. They are a symbol of the government's legitimacy in the vicinity
Armed civilians: Civilians that are given arms by a society's elites for occasional purposes. They are not necessarily independent from their employers, being trained, supervised or paid by them.
2. Literature on counter-insurgency will give the strategic context in which the government uses the CAFGUs.
1. To disband CAFGUs would need the revocation of EO 546 as well as EO 264, the latter being inscribed in the 1987 Constitution. Low political will for such a change given the benefits CAFGUs give to politicians and economic elites.
Why does the Government of the Philippines use armed civilians in its counter-insurgency strategy even though they are linked to allegations of human right abuses?
A stetched body of the Philippine coercive apparatus (McCoy 2009), conducting duties generally attributed to the AFP (direct support for the army, generally referred to as force multiplier) and the PNP (monitoring criminal activity in remote areas, where the local police is under-equipped). That protean form makes them suitable to be used as private armies, especially for economic elites (SCAA).
An armed group in service of the neoliberal policies (Harvey 2005, Foucault 2004). They are used not only to protect the communities against « insurgent threats », but also to protect the economic projects of the area against their opposers (KAMP interview 2013, Kiblawan incident 2013)
A paramilitary force that enjoys the legitimacy of being integrated into the military chain of command and protected by legislation (EO 264, EO 546, 7077). Army officials and political leaders continuously deny any abuse committed by the CAFGUs, creating a gap between the official rhetoric and actions (interview with cadre in Minoyan brgy., Negros Occidental, August 21 2013. CAFGU abuse in Murcia, Negros Occidental, July 2013.)
What can be done? Policy implications and prospects.
2. The amelioration of CAFGU oversight by civilian authorities would perpetuate the status quo since they already agree with their presence (off-the-record interview with mayor of Kalamansig). Those who disagree simply keep them away from their area (Interview with Escalante's vice-mayor, July 2013, off-the-record interview with mayor of Davao City, August 2013)
Solution: Give a permanent check on CAFGU behaviour to the Philippine civil society (NGOs, Interest groups). Would ameliorate the government's credibility in its « hearts and minds strategy ».
1. A cheap tool to help the AFP fight against insurgents.
2. To protect local politicians and economic elites' private stakes.
3. To help giving the government an appearance of popular support.
Since the government wants to « bring all stakeholders together for peace » (Oplan Bayanihan), civil society groups should have a check on CAFGU's behaviour.
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