Palace: No sacred cows in purge vs private armies

By Willard Cheng, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 04 2013 03:37 PM | Updated as of Feb 04 2013 11:37 PM

MANILA, Philippines - Malacañang said the government will go after private armed groups regardless of whether they belong to political personalities or families allied with the President.

“Walang sinasanto ang Pangulo. ‘Pag sinabing private armed groups, bawal ‘yan. ‘Yan po ang instruction ni Pangulong Aquino. We had a meeting several months back on the private armed groups and the President made it clear that there should not be the presence of private armed groups. Even outside of the election. These things are anathema to an administration that is preserving peace and order,” Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda said.

Lacierda added that the government continues with its efforts to crack down on loose firearms.

President Aquino earlier ordered the Department of the Interior and Local Government to step up its campaign to dismantle all private armies ahead of the upcoming midterm elections in 2013.

The Philippine National Police has identified about 60 suspected "private armies" that could use violence to influence national elections next year.

Armed followers of politicians have long been a major problem during elections, carrying out crimes like the 2009 massacre of 58 people to protect the interests of powerful clans.

A previous national police study in 2010 found 112 private armed groups all over the archipelago with numbers ranging from a handful of men to hundreds. With Agence France-Presse