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Why armed groups proliferate


(BY: CLEM M. BASCAR) People might be wondering why at present there are so many armed groups operating within the territorial  integrity of the Philippines. Perhaps we hold the world record as the only state that is under four governments, namely; the Republic of the Philippines, (constitutionally established by its mother state, the United States of America on July 4, 1946 when it was granted self-government under the Tydings McDuffie Law), and the three belligerent states listed in the following chronological order:  the Communist Party of the Philippines with its armed component, the National People’ s Army (CCP-NPA), the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). All these three major revolutionary organizations have already attained what is termed under international law a status of belligerence which makes them politically at par with the Republic of the Philippines whose relations are determined and governed by the customs and laws of war.

All these belligerent organizations mentioned above have satisfied the four elements of a state, namely; territory, government, people, and sovereignty. Although, many of our legislators, especially those who arrogantly frown upon and vehemently  refuse to grant them belligerent status on the argument that this is no longer recognized by modern- day governments, in reality, the Philippines had already wittingly or unwittingly granted them belligerent status by entering into peace negotiations and signing pacts for the cessation of hostilities or ceasefire agreements at various times with anyone of them. In fact, right now, the GPH is still bound by the truce pacts it signed with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) complete with monitoring international bodies to monitor violations by any of the contracting parties, the effectiveness and usefulness of which, are being tested in the case of the Mamasapano military fiasco involving the PNP Special Action Force (SAP) and the combined elements of the Moro Islamic  Liberation Front (MILF), Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), plus some rumored involvement of private armed groups. 

Right now the GPH is in the thick of the fight with another revolutionary organization following its unilateral declaration of “all-out offensive” against the newly- founded Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), a break-away faction of the MILF. The BIFF being a new anti-government armed group, is still considered a mere rebel organization and therefore, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP)  enjoys full command discretion to go after them for  they are still treated as bandits without having to worry about breaching international humanitarian laws or violating laws crystalized and promulgated by the 1949, 1951, and 1989 Geneva Conventions and other related laws of armed conflict as long as they strictly adhere and follow the standards rules of engagement governing military operations.

But if the BIFF will be able to carry on the fight against the GPH and will become so intense for a protracted period of time that the situation on the ground  will consequently deteriorate to humatarian proportions, some legitimate international bodies might be compelled to intervene and sidestep the crucial issue of belligerence. When this happens, without the Philippine government’s  official recognition of the BIFF as having attained the status of belligerence, the  international community, of its own accord, will automatically declare a state of belligerence between the BIFF and the GPH when the criteria set for the institution of such interventive humanitarian mechanism are met.

But why do armed groups proliferate by leaps and bounds in our country? This is most likely brought about by the wrong attitude the GPH has customarily and  consistently demonstrated in the manner by which it handles and gives attention and priority to groups, institutions, and individuals seeking redress of grievances, social, moral,  economic, and political reforms, self-determination and other aspirations.

As has always been experientially and factually demonstrated, our government’s lukewarm  response to peaceful means of advocating and crusading for better public services, livelihood opportunities, amelioration of poverty situation, irradication of graft and corruption and red tape in the public bureuacracy, respect for human rights, self-determination or some form of autonomy, could be the principal reason why disgruntled, disenchanted, and frustrated citizens of this country resort to the use of violence and war. Because peaceful mass protests, rallies, marches, caravans, demonstrations, petitions, and other non-violent modalities do not attract or elicit the prompt attention, response, and positive action from the government; instead are habitually taken for granted and unceremoniously treated without consequence , many take the path of insurrection, rebellion, and belligerence to dramatize their demands and aspirations. With plenty of high powered and state- of- the- art armament and a well-organized army, government attention and action are amazingly automatic and inspiringly quick which take the forms of prolonged and very expensive peace talks, public consultations, financial packages, monitoring bodies, diplomatic advisers, ceasefire joint committees, a lot of secret deals involving foreign meddlers, sponsors, and funders, and of course, ultimately the enactment of an organic act to satisfy the demand for self-determination.

This explains why the CPP-NPA became the model for the birth of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), not to give full measure of importance to the Abu Sayyaf and other notorious and equally dreaded  armed groups.

So if you want the government to immediately pay attention to your political aspiration or any demand for the general improvement of our social, economic, and cultural life, the quickest and most effective way is violence or war. Then you can have all the media attention and promotion in the world free of charge, as well.

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