Retired general confirms: Govt armed Ampatuans

by Queenie Casimiro, ABS-CBN News Zamboanga

Posted at Dec 07 2009 06:04 PM | Updated as of Dec 08 2009 02:04 AM

A retired military general has admitted that it was the government that armed the Ampatuans.

This was the statement of retired Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan who is making his rounds in the country as he announces his bid for a Senate seat in the May 2010 elections.

Palparan said that Andal Ampatuan Sr., patriarch of the powerful Maguindanao clan, has been known to be a partner of the government in fighting rebels, particularly the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

"Kaya iyong pag-armas natin sa kanila ay bilang pagpapasalamat lang iyon," Palparan said. "Ang dami niya kasing naitulong sa military, sa gobyerno."

Palparan however said the arming of the powerful Maguindanao clan was "legitimate at that time because they also had to defend themselves against the MILF."

But the retired Army general admitted that the situation "got out of hand."

Authorities have said they were surprised with the volume of firearms and ammunitions they unearthed from properties of the Ampatuans in various areas in Maguindanao.

The gruesome massacre of at least 57 civilians in Ampatuan town in Maguindanao by 100 armed men purportedly led by members of the Ampatuan clan last November 23 has highlighted the need to disarm and dissolve private armed groups, not only in Central Mindanao but other parts of the country as well.

“Why only us?”

Edgar Araojo of Akbayan partylist group said, however, that the Ampatuans might have an axe to grind against Malacañang since government seem to be "singling them out."

"The Ampatuans may say, ‘why only us?’" Araojo said. "There are other, more, political warlords elsewhere that government should also be dealing with. It should be a national campaign."

Meanwhile, local officials in the island provinces of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) have expressed support to the campaign against private armies.

Sulu 2nd district Rep. Munir Arbison said that the 2010 elections will be bloody if private armed groups are not disarmed at the soonest possible time.

Arbison, in a phone interview, alleged that Sulu Gov. Sakur Tan has over 3,000 police auxiliaries.

Tan, in a separate interview however, said that the police auxiliaries are under the direct control of the chiefs of police in the areas they are assigned to.

Tan also said that he too is in favor of the plan. But “government should first address and put to an end the problem of insurgency and other peace and order-related problems in Sulu," said the governor.

Senior Superintendent Tony Mendoza, Sulu police director, meanwhile said he plans to call local officials in the province to a meeting to convince them to abide by the policy of only 2 uniformed security personnel per politician.

Meanwhile, local officials in ARMM provinces are reportedly waiting how the government would be implementing the campaign against private armies.