Esperon: MNLF, MILF not “threats to peace;” CVOs to be put under military control

Lt. Gen. Hermogenes Esperon told a 15-person delegation from the Mindanao PeaceWeavers Thursday in his office at Camp Aguinaldo that the New People's Army (NPA) tops the list of "threats to peace" followed by "Jemaah Islamiyah-Abu Sayyaf" and "lawlessness."

The MPW is a network of nine peace networks in Mindanao (see other story).

“I lost a lot of classmates fighting the MNLF. I almost died fighting the MNLF but when we negotiated peace, they became my brothers. That can never happen with the NPA. They have another kind of ideology,” Esperon said.

When Esperson was asked where the JI elements were, he replied, “If I knew where they are, they would not last a minute.”

Esperon said the MNLF and MILF “could disturb the peace and we are ready for that but I think we have learned the mechanisms that could achieve peace for us.”

Esperon also said civilian volunteers organizations (CVOs), presently under the local government units, may have to be placed under military control.

“They are creatures of, hindi creatures (but) creations of the local government unit exactly to pursue peace also in their own belief but the controls of CVOs should be better defined and that’s what we’re trying to do. So now we have the buffer zones. What do you do with the CVOs?  You make them as a …. How do you apply…  how do you control them…organize them better, probably make them, put them under military control or make military regulations govern their employment, behavior, etc.. para maging orderly,” he said.

CVOs are supposed to be unarmed but in several areas across Mindanao, they are armed.

“The matter of bearing arms should have the twin of responsibility. Hindi lang tayo mag-aarmas. (We just don’t arm). Kailangan meron ka ring (You have to have) responsibility. Soldiers are like that. We are armed and by getting the arms we also take the responsibility and accountability. We are given state powers. In return, we subscribe to civilian authority. We put ourselves under the chain of command pero yung CVOs, wala eh (but CVOs, none),” Esperon said. (MindaNews)

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