PGMA names members of commission probing private armies

December 31, 2009 11:40 pm 

MANILA, Dec. 31 — President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on Thursday named the members of an independent commission tasked to oversee the dismantling of private armies in Maguindanao and other "hot spots" in the country.

Under Administrative Order 275, signed Dec. 8, President Arroyo provided the commission with duties to be the government's sole voice on the issue of such armies, which surfaced in the aftermath of the infamous Maguindanao massacre last Nov. 23.

Initially named as commissioners are Butuan Bishop Juan De Dios Pueblos, representing the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines; Mahmoud Mala L. Adilao of the Bishops Ulama Conference; Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas (KBP) president Herman Basbano, representing the media, Ret. Gen Jaime Echivarria, president of the Association of Generals and Flag Officers (AGFO); Retired Deputy Director General Virtus Gil of the Philippine National Police (PNP), and Dante Jimenez of the Volunteers against Crime and Corruption (VACC).

President Arroyo ordered the dismantling of private armies to pave the way for peaceful elections next year.

Press Secretary Cerge Remonde said the commission was given broad investigative powers, including the tapping of the PNP, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), and other government agencies such as government-owned and controlled corporations. It’s mandated to finish its work prior to the May 2010 elections.

The independent body will report to the President outlining its action and policy recommendations, including appropriate prosecution and legislative proposals aimed at eliminating the existence of private armies prior to the May 2010 elections.

The Commission has the power to summon witnesses, administrative oaths, take testimony or evidence relevant to the investigation. It also has the power to clear or disapprove all pertinent media statements by any member of the Administration.

Among others, it has the power to engage the services of resource persons, professionals and other personnel which may be necessary to carry out its functions. It also has the power to deputize AFP, NBI, PNP, the Department of Justice, and any other law enforcement agency to assist in the performance of its functions.

The Office of the President is providing the funds for the operation of the Commission which will be supported by a Secretariat composed of technical and administrative personnel. (PNA) RMA/OPS/rsm

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