National Bureau of Investigation have been ordered to prosecute and order the disarming of the alleged militia groups and identify supporters who foster their criminal and violent acts.
Such militia forces, which are trained and armed by an over-stretched military to guard far-flung rural villages, have been linked to rights abuses and criminal acts. The military says paramilitary forces with a current strength of about 20,000 men have played a crucial role in helping fight a decades-long communist insurgency, adding that abusive militiamen have been prosecuted and punished."Our goal must not be limited to prosecuting the offenders and disarming these groups, but must extend to a conclusive probe on their supporters who fuel their criminal operations and acts of violence," de Lima said in a statement."Even as we condemn these paramilitary groups and their benefactors, all parties must go beyond and show resolve in putting an end to their reign of terror" in tribal communities, she said.
Human Rights Watch accused the Philippine military last week of standing aside while paramilitary forces attacked tribal villages and schools accused of supporting Marxist guerrillas in at least three southern provinces.
A paramilitary group allegedly killed an educator and two tribal leaders in a school in remote Surigao del Sur province in a Sept. 1 attack that caused a few thousand residents to flee their homes. Another militia force has reportedly staged violent assaults against tribesmen since last year in the provinces of Bukidnon and Davao del Norte, particularly students at tribal schools accused of promoting the communist ideology, according to the U.S.-based rights group.
Military spokesman Col. Restituto Padilla said the military would not condone any rights abuses. The military, he says, welcomes any investigation of its commanders, who oversee the militiamen linked to the attacks.
De Lima said her department has been following the reported attacks against tribal communities "with great concern," adding that initial reports she got suggested "that the transgressions which resulted in the death and injury of members of indigenous peoples' communities and the destruction of their property involved paramilitary groups."Tribal communities, de Lima said, have been caught in the middle of the insurgency war and most likely forced to take sides and pitted against each other in the conflict by communist New People's Army rebels and "some elements of the state's security forces.""The state's mandate to preserve peace and enforce law and order in the affected communities must continue while ensuring that non-combatants are not caught in the crossfire," she said. "Violators will be held to account."The 46-year Marxist insurgency is one of the longest-running in Asia and talks to end the fighting have stalled. The military says years of battle setbacks, infighting and factionalism have weakened the insurgents, who have survived by extorting from mining and agricultural companies, mostly in the country's south.