ARE THERE private armies in Western Visayas? The Police Regional Office 6’s campaign against loose firearms as the midterm elections draw near aims to cripple armed goons which may be used for the polls.
There’s no denying that the government must carry out a campaign to dismantle private armed groups. Private armies have been notoriously tagged as being used by political dynasties in the country to maintain a grip on power.
The anti-private armies drive is already a matter of state policy as specified by the Constitution. Section 2, Article XVIII of the Constitution says “private armies and other private armed groups not recognized by duly constituted authority shall be dismantled.”
Authorities are empowered enough to cite the constitutional provision in its drive against these groups. But we can further step up the campaign. Through legislation for example, leadership and membership in any private armed group and refusal to disband after notice from authority may be prohibited.
Likewise, any abuse of various permits pertaining to firearms, utilization of paramilitary forces as private armed groups and protection, financing and supplying private armed groups must be made punishable.
Protectors, financiers or suppliers must be treated and punished as leaders. If the leader is a public officer, in addition to the penalties, perpetual absolute disqualification from holding public office may be imposed, and they may be subjected to administrative sanctions, too.
If we need to keep private armies in check and disable them to operate beyond our constitutional framework, what we need is to strengthen the law’s implementation.