>News Update Ampatuan private army members face raps for illegal possession of firearms

>The Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) police has filed an illegal possession of firearms complaint against eight members of the Ampatuan clan’s so-called private militia.

The complaint, filed with the Department of Justice (DOJ) on Tuesday, is connected to the Nov. 23, 2009 massacre in Maguindanao province.

Ampatuan clan patriarch Andal Ampatuan Sr. and his son, former Datu Unsay mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr., allegedly ordered the bloodbath, where 57 people were killed.

Those named as respondents in the illegal possession of firearms complaint were: Kuka Guiamalon Ebos, Kaking A-Ingko, Apel Lauban, Denex Sacal, Esmael Abdul, Kahandan Asim Saudagal, James Abdul, and Datinoy Paglas.

As of posting time, GMA News Online is still trying to reach the comment of the Ampatuans’ lead defense counsel, Sigfird Fortun, for his comment.

The Ampatuans have repeatedly denied they were behind the carnage, even as the prosecution panel’s witnesses presented before the Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 221 have recounted how members of the clan plotted the massacre.

On Nov. 23, 2009, the family of now Maguindanao Gov. Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu led a convoy to register the then Buluan town mayor’s candidacy for governorship.

However, on their way to the provincial capital of Shariff Aguak, they were waylaid in Ampatuan town by heavily-armed men, widely presumed to be members of the Ampatuan’s private army.

It was then that the massacre was carried out. Fifty-seven people — 32 of them media workers — were killed in the bloodbath. Private armies

The alleged involvement of private armies in the killings prompted former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to create a commission tasked to find out how to disband private armed groups not just in Maguindanao, but in the entire country.

The ICAPA, or the better known as the Zeñarosa Commission, finished its work by June 30 and submitted its report to both outgoing President Arroyo and new President Benigno Aquino III.

The Aquino administration has neither revealed the Commission’s findings nor commented on its recommendations, including “the abolition of a policy granting amnesties to wielders of loose firearms.”

But the Aquino administration has hinted that private militias are still useful for securing many rural areas. Thus it may be back to square one in the ambitious goal of abolishing officially sanctioned private armies, or any one of the names they go by — Citizens Armed Force Geographical Units (Cafgus), Civilian Volunteer Organizations (CVOs), barangay tanods, etc. – VVP

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