Philippine Daily Inquirer


- By Jaymee T. Gamil and Leila B. Salaverria @Team_Inquirer

The Philippine National Police on Monday denied it was going to revive Alsa Masa, the 1980s network of civilian informers that morphed into a vigilante group that was accused of widespread human rights abuses.

Chief Supt. Edward Carranza, Calabarzon (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal, Quezon) regional police director, was

I am afraid it is giving the corrupt and abusive policemen more teeth to rape, to kill and to commit crimes against unarmed citizens

reported on Sunday as saying the PNP was considerin­g expanding its Community Mobilizati­on Project (CMP) into an intelligen­ce-gathering network that would be “like Alsa Masa.”

But Chief Supt. Benigno Durana, spokespers­on for the PNP, told reporters on Monday that it was “not a policy and it will never be a policy of the PNP to revive this concept of Alsa Masa nor to adopt in whatever form the concept of the Alsa Masa.”

Durana explained that what Carranza spoke about was the expansion a “community policing project” that would include members of the Church and academia and business groups in discussion­s of and search for acceptable solutions to public security problems.

When Carranza compared the project to Alsa Masa, he was most likely referring to the vigilante group’s “good point” of promoting volunteeri­sm in the community, Durana said.

Earlier on Monday, senators cautioned the PNP about the plan.

Informatio­n gathering

Under the CMP, clusters of families are tasked with collecting and passing on intelligen­ce about drug and crime suspects and communist insurgents and their supporters.

Police then investigat­e the informatio­n.

Sen. Francis Pangilinan asked the PNP to “seriously reconsider” the idea.

Pangilinan took note of Alsa Masa’s abuses in the past in the name of fighting communism and keeping law and order, and expressed concern that the new movement would give law enforcers more leeway to commit abuses.

“I am afraid it is giving the corrupt and abusive policemen more teeth to rape, to kill and to commit crimes against unarmed citizens,” Pangilinan said in a text message.

“Reviving it may, in fact, be a recipe for rampant atrocities and abuses,” he added.

Sen. Aquilino Pimentel III was also wary about what the PNP could do.

“We should be concerned with our PNP nowadays given the number of arrested people dying while in their custody. This is not a good situation regarding law enforcemen­t in our country,” Pimentel said.

Sen. Panfilo Lacson, a former PNP chief, also warned that the formation of an Alsa Masa-like group “could be a very dangerous move, especially if it spins out of control.”

Lacson noted that the Kuratong Baleleng group of Octavio Parojinog operated in Mindanao against communist insurgents with the military’s imprimatur.

But the group eventually turned to a life of crime as a career because of the absence of a well-planned and structured exit program, he said.

“If the PNP adopts the same method without seriously considerin­g the lessons of the past, we could have a serious peace and order problem in our hands,” Lacson said.

Extrajudic­ial killings

Sen. Risa Hontiveros said the plan to revive the network of community informers may give rise to more extrajudic­ial killings.

Hontiveros took note of Alsa Masa’s reputation as a “dreaded” paramilita­ry group known for its lawlessnes­s, human rights abuses and extrajudic­ial killings of suspected enemies of the state.

“For the PNP to draw inspiratio­n from this group to allegedly deepen its relationsh­ip with the communitie­s and augment its antidrug campaign is not only foolish, [but also] tacit approval of the group’s atrocious legacy and an invitation to more extrajudic­ial killings,” Hontiveros said in a statement.

The top police official in Quezon province, Senior Supt. Osmundo de Guzman, sought to ease fears about the planned network of informers.

“I have yet to receive a memorandum extending the CMP into an Alsa Masa-type civilian network,” De Guzman said by phone.

He said the implementa­tion of the CMPin Quezon had been successful, suspected drug pushers and wanted criminals getting arrested.

Assure the nation

The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) called on the government on Monday to assure the nation that the proposed revival of Alsa Masa would not worsen violations of human rights in the country.

“The government must assure the country that this would not follow the history of the Alsa Masa in the 1980s known for its abuses, especially that the government has yet to resolve allegation­s of human rights violations allegedly linked to the current government drug campaign,” Jacqueline Ann de Guia, spokespers­on for the CHR, said in a statement.

While the Alsa Masa concept seemed to be “tapping the spirit of volunteeri­sm,” De Guia said, the government should “ensure adherence to strict guidelines in its implementa­tion that would prevent violations of human rights, including respect for due process and the rule of law.

New York-based Human Rights Watch also expressed alarm at the PNP plan, saying it would only make human rights violations “more structured and systematic.”

“Due process and the presumptio­n of innocence are just two of the civil liberties that will be violated under this plan,” HRW said in a statement on Monday.

“This intelligen­ce network, for all practical purposes, usurps the function of the courts to determine the culpabilit­y of a person accused of a crime and, worse, give the police justificat­ion to harm or kill suspects without due process of law,” HRW said.

 ??  ?? Francis Pangilinan Senator
Francis Pangilinan Senator

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