Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Units (CAFGU) (Philippines)

Country: Philippines
Details of Formation: The new Constitution of 1987 ordered the dismantling of existing paramilitary forces. In practice, it only replaced the Civilian Home Defense Forces (CHDF) with the CAFGU and CVO militias (Human Rights Watch 2010a). The CAFGU was created on 25 July 1987 by Executive Order No. 264, signed by President Corazon C. Aquino (Wikipedia). The Secretary of National Defense was tasked to organize and set up the CAFGU.
Details of Termination: Successive Philippine governments publicly committed to disbanding CAFGUs. However, disbanding was never complete, as CAFGU units remained active in rural areas (Human Rights Watch 2010b). Aquino III called for the abolishing of private armies but recognized the need of using CAFGUs, which he apparently distinguished as official militia forces from the private armies (Human Rights Watch 2010a). A news source of 2015 reports joint actions of the CAFGU with the military, indicating that the CAFGUs are still active and pro-government.
Purpose: The main purpose of the CAFGU is to support the military in counter-insurgency operations (Amnesty International 1993, Human Rights Watch 2010b). They were considered important force multipliers to the military (Human Rights Watch 2010a). They are also deployed to secure business interests. In some provinces, ruling families use CAFGU as private armies (Amnesty International 2009). In 2010, President Benigno Aquino III said that the government had not enough money to rely only on the military so they relied on the CAFGU as cheaper alternative.
Organisation: CAFGU is organized as an irregular auxiliary force of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. They are officially administered by, and under the operational control of, regular units of the military (Wikipedia). The army, police and local officers are responsible for issuing salaries and weapons, and exercising control over the CAFGU (Human Rights Watch 2010a). Due to vaguely-worded Executive Order 546, the CAFGU are often used by local strongmen as private armies and are poorly disciplined and unaccountable (Amnesty International 2009).
Weapons and Training: CAFGUs receive weapons from the army, police and local officials (Human Rights Watch 2010a). They typically have small arms such as M1 Garand, M-14 or M-16 rifles (Wikipedia). They also receive military training by the army: Under government regulations, they are entitled to 45 days of military training (Human Rights Watch 2010b).
Size: According to a news source from 1992, CAFGU had 80,000 troops. After accusations of human rights violations emerged in 1993, the government decided to disband 10,000 CAFGU troops, but did not disband the group completely (Wikipedia). In 1999/2000 news sources speak of a re-activation of CAFGU and plans to increase membership to 30,000/35,000 men. By 2000, they had 30,000 members (Human Rights Watch 2010b). By 2007, membership had risen to 60,000 (Wikipedia), which was also the number of troops reported in 2009 by news sources. In 2010, CAFGU had 56,000 fighters (Human Rights Watch 2010b).
Reason for Membership: CAFGU members are paid for their service; Special CAFGU members receive around US$110 per month and a sack of rice, but salaries depend on the member’s official designation and location, and the local government’s discretion. In the Ampatuan-dominated region, salary was issued by the Ampatuan family (Human Rights Watch 2010b). In general, responsibility for their salaries lies with the army, police and local officials (Human Rights Watch 2010a). A news source reports that private armies, such as CAFGU offer their members a share of the spoils. Another news source cites a man who alongside his tribe fled forced recruitment; CAFGU replied that they were after NPA rebels and had no intention of forcibly recruiting the tribesmen because that would be illegal.
Treatment of Civilians: CAFGU members were involved in numerous killings of civilians. This includes deliberate, targeted killings (Amnesty International 1993). Accusations against CAFGU also include torture and beating of civilians (Human Rights Watch 2010b). When concerns about CAFGU human rights violations arose in 1993, the government disbanded some 10,000 CAFGU troops but did not disband the CAFGU completely. Judicial and institutional measures to protect human rights are reported to have had little impact on the behavior or CAFGU members (Wikipedia). A news source reports that CAFGU backed the Philippine Army in an attack against the Bangsamoro civilian population.
Other Information: In the Ampatuan-dominated region, members of the CAFGU members were also members of the Ampatuan militia (Human Rights Watch 2010b). CAFGU members are mainly reservists and civilians who had undergone military training.
References: Amnesty International. 1993. “Tribal Activist Shot Dead by Government Militia.“ AI Index: ASA 35/01/93. February.

Amnesty International. 2009. “Philippines must limit Martial Law and disband paramilitaries.”

Human Rights Watch. 2010. “Philippines: Repeating a Quarter-Century-Old Mistake.”

Human Rights Watch. 2010. “’They Own the People’. The Ampatuans, State-Backed Militias, and Killings in the Southern Philippines.“ ISBN: 1-56432-710-8.

Wikpedia. “Citizen Armed Forces Geographical Unit”.

Information was taken from news sources listed in the PGMD