Comelec exempts militias from gun ban

MANILA, Philippines – Amid efforts to eliminate private armies and the controversies surrounding the involvement of the Civilian Volunteer Organizations (CVO) in the Nov. 23 Maguindanao massacre, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) yesterday exempted the Civilian Active Auxiliaries (CAA) from the total gun ban.

Comelec Commissioner Lucenito Tagle said the CAA, which used to be known as the Citizen Armed Force Geographical Unit or CAFGU, are allowed to carry firearms as they are considered units of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

“When we issued the certificate of authority to AFP, it says ‘all units,’ and CAFGU is a unit of the AFP. It’s now up to the AFP to police their ranks,” said Tagle, chairman of the Committee on the Ban of Firearms and Security Personnel.

Government militia forces earlier expressed apprehension over the Joint Letter Directives (JLD) between the Comelec, the AFP and the Philippine National Police (PNP), which directs the implementation of the firearms ban and the dismantling of partisan armed groups.

That was put to test after the police questioned the CAA and the Special Civilian Active Auxiliary (SCAA), which were trained and provided firearms by the military. The CAA operates alongside government forces while private business and local government units tap the SCAA to secure their respective areas.

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