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Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Units (CAFGU)

The Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Units are paramilitary units composed largely of volunteer [ie, paid, but not drafted] reservists organized into companies of 88 personnel that are handled by a squad of regular troops responsible for providing guidance and control. As of 2007 the Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Units (CAFGUs) were estimated to number between 40,000 and 82,000.

CAFGUs are the ones giving information to their cadres since they have access to the different areas, have complete knowledge of the terrain, and they are the direct contacts in the community. CAFGUs have the advantage in protecting their villages from outside threats as they are more familiar with their own communities.

Members undergo a basic 30-day training program that focuses on firearms and small-unit tactics; receive free health care, an initial clothing allowance, and a small stipend of 2,700 pesos per month; are armed with M16s, M14s, and carbines; remain subject to military law and regulations; and must wear uniforms.

In the course of 1986/87 some 200 armed private bands collectively called "vigilantes" emerged in the Philippines, ostensibly organized against a rising tide of communist guerrilla insurgency. The vigilantes appearance, encouraged by local military commanders, should be seen against the long history of Philippine "private armies". The vigilanles' rise came after the formal dissolution of such paramilitary groups as the Civilian Home Defence Forces (CHDF), which led to a further complication of the constitutional-legal foundation of all para-military organizations in the Philippines.

In a controversial move, President Aquino [1986-1992] sought the institutionalization of right-wing vigilante groups by supporting the establishment of the 80,000-strong para-military organization called Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Units (CAFGU). President Aquino created the Civilian Armed Force Geographical Units (CAFGU) on 25 July 1987 as a part of a wide-reaching plan to integrate all auxiliary forces into a Civilian Armed Forces (CAF). The revival of the CAFGU was justified as an emergency measure of protecting people from violence committed by criminal elements.

There are two types of CAFGUs: the CAFGU Active Auxiliaries (CAA), which are organized under the direct supervision of the army and receives living allowances from the AFP; and the Special CAFGU Active Auxiliaries (SCAA), which receive living allowances from companies or LGUs that employ them to secure areas or business establishments. Special Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Units (SCAAs), funded by private business and Local Government Units (LGUs) and under the operational control of the AFP, were authorized by a 1989 Directive of Chief of Staff General Renato de Villa.

Critics suggested that CAFGU uncannily resembles Marcos' notorious Civilian Home Defense Forces (CHDFs). It will be recalled that the CHDF was repeatedly cited by or ganizations like Amnesty International and the International Commission of Jurists for grave human rights violations and other crimes in the name of anti-communism during the martial law period. In the end, the CHDF was essentially converted into the new Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Units (CAFGUs).

Subsequently, sensing a diminishing threat, the AFP began to gradually reduce its own numbers. Figures obtained by Newsbreak show that the reduction of regular troops was minimal, but the number of Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Units (Cafgus) in the late 1990s fell from over 40,000 in 1998 to just below 34,000 in 1999. The CAFGU reduction gave the rebels an opportunity to regroup. The military uses regular troops to clear an area, but once it is cleared, it becomes the job of the Cafgus, who are residents, to keep it free from rebel influence. The reduction proved premature. The rebels were able to retake many areas.

While the motive of government might be laudable, the Commission on Human Rights [a Philippine government agency] manifested grave concern on the possible dangers of violation of human rights of innocent people.

In astatement on 23 March 2000, it noted "It has been a sad experience in the past that the CAFGUs have committed abuses on innocent civilians resulting in the violation of human rights. Armed as they were, some CAFGU elements have abused their authority. Some were even identified and mobilized as paramilitary members of groups such as Alsa Masa and Pulahans. Unless they are properly trained as required for the military and the regular police force and are subject to disciplinary sanctions, the armed CAFGUs might violate human rights of persons. It is to be recalled that active auxiliary units purportedly screened by local executives have formed part of the CAFGUs."

Factors prolonging interethnic conflict in Mindanao include the failure of the government’s current justice system; the neglect of the indigenous justice and reconciliation system applicable to both Menuvu and Magindanaon; and the attempts to solve the conflict through violence. During the 1970s, violence spread over Mindanao, affecting areas inhabited by the Menuvu and Magindanaon tribes. They became mutually embittered as the years passed by, and thus began the "rido" or violent interethnic conflict between two tribes that used to be good neighbors or "half-brothers.”

The conflict further escalated when dragged into the bigger wars between the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front since most of the men of the Menuvu communities were recruited into Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Units (CAFGUs) or Civilian Volunteers Organization (CVOs) that served as buffer forces of the AFP.

Serious human rights violations regarding indigenous communities result from economic activities such as large-scale logging, open-pit mining, multi-purpose dams, agribusiness plantations and other development projects. Of particular concern are the long-term devastating effects of mining operations on the livelihood of indigenous peoples and their environment. Communities resist development projects that destroy their traditional economy, community structures and cultural values, a process described as “development aggression”.

Indigenous resistance and protest are frequently countered by military force involving numerous human rights abuses, such as arbitrary detention, persecution, killings of community representatives, coercion, torture, demolition of houses, destruction of property, rape, and forced recruitment by the armed forces, the police or the so-called paramilitaries, such as Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Units (CAFGUs).

On 04 October 2007 President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo directed the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to take speedy action on cases of extra-judicial killings and disappearances, and adopt effective measures to avoid military abuses. In Administrative Order (AO) 197, the President also directed the AFP and the Department of National Defense to draft a legislative proposal instituting “safeguards against disclosure of military secrets and undue interference in military operations inimical to national security.”

Signed by the President on 25 September 2007, AO 197 likewise instructed the DND/AFP to speed up the recruitment, training, equipping and deployment of Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Units (CAFGUs) to replace transferred troops “as well as investigate and, if necessary, stop and punish schemes to fraudulently collect salaries through ‘ghost’ CAFGUs.”

Mayor Beng Climaco took time out to be with the different Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Units (CAGFUs) and to personally thank them for their untiring efforts in helping guard the City’s peripheries notwithstanding the challenges they confront daily. The visit to the different CAFGU/CAA (Civilian Active Auxiliary) patrol bases, held December 17 and 19, 2014, also gave the mayor the opportunity to share to the force multipliers some goodies for their Noche Buena. Mayor Climaco said the CAGFU/CAA forces were doing a great service to the people of Zamboanga by helping secure the city from external threats despite the meager allowances that they get from the government through the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

The Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Units (CAFGU) were formed to support the AFP in counter-insurgency activities. There are however many instances where members of the CAFGU are being influenced to join private armed groups by local politicians for different reasons such as money, power and having close ties to local officials as they are also local residents in the area.

Problems arise because majority of local officials in the province hold their office in their own residences. Patronage politics is a common practice. Adding to this are the tendency of some mayors to support the New Peoples Army and other criminal groups.

A portion of the Foreign Military Financing (FMF) allocation for the Philippines has been conditioned since 2008 on the issuance of a report from the State Department on the human rights situation in the Philippines.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario denied allegations by the US embassy that the Philippines had not satisfied the criteria set by the US Senate Committee on Appropriations for the lifting of the withholding element on a portion of assistance to the Philippine military. In his speech on 02 May 2012 at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, Del Rosario said the Philippines has “effectively taken such steps” and there has been a significant decline in extrajudicial killings and a strong policy environment in place that institutionalizes respect for and sensitivity to human rights. He stressed that warrants of arrest have been issued against high profile suspects such as retired Army Gen. Jovito Palparan and former Palawan Gov. Joel Reyes and at least 198 suspects have been charged in the Maguindanao massacre.

US Ambassador Harry Thomas Jr. said during the first Kapihan sa Embahada on 23 June 2012 that there was still no indication that the US Congress would remove a congressional hold on a portion of its aid to the Philippine military until significant progress has been made in prosecuting those responsible in extrajudicial killings. Washington also urged the Philippines during the second Universal Periodic Review (UPR) at the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva last month to take additional measures to ensure that the military exercises full control over Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Units and the police over Civilian Volunteer Organizations, holding these units accountable for the Philippines’ obligations under international human rights law.



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