PRESS Secretary Cerge Remonde said Malacanang is committed to dismantle all private armies and other armed groups before the presidential elections of May 10 is held.

Remonde, in an interview over Radyo ng Bayan, said the chairman of the newly formed Commission that would investigate and guide the dismantling of private armed groups, would be named within the week.

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He simply described the chairman as a retired Supreme Court justice whom they expect to return to the country soon to oversee the commission.

“We already have a chairman… a retired justice of the Supreme Court but the person is still out of the country… we did not have any difficulty… we have a lot of patriots ready to serve the country,” he added.

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo during the holidays named the members of the Commission as: Butuan Bishop Juan de Dios Pueblos who represents the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines; Mahmod Mala Adilao who represents the Bishop Ulama Conference; and Kapisanan ng mg Broadkaster ng Pilipinas president Herman Basbano who represents the media.

Also named commissioners are retired Brigadier General Jaime Echevarria of the Association of Generals and Flag Officers; retired police Deputy Director Virtus Gil; and Dante Jimenez of the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption.

The Commission, created through Administrative Order 275 which the President issued on December 8, 2009, stemmed from the killing of 57 persons in Ampatuan town in Maguindanao last November 23, and the imposition of an eight-day Martial Law in Maguindanao due to threats of private armed groups.

“Definitely,” Remonde said when asked if Arroyo is committed to dismantle all private armies before the May polls.

“In fact that is the mandate of the independent Commission … the Commission is given very broad powers to investigate, to tap all the agencies of government with the end in view of being able to finish its work of investigating, prosecuting if necessary, and submitting its final recommendations with executive actions before the May elections," he added.

Under the AO, the Commission may tap the Department of Justice, Philippine National Police (PNP), the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), the National Bureau of Investigations and other government agencies including owned and controlled corporations if necessary to enable them to finish their work which includes investigating, summoning witnesses, and taking testimonies and evidence that may be relevant to their probe.

The Commission shall also guide authorities like the PNP and AFP in the dismantling of private armed groups in the areas of Maguindanao, Basilan, Sulu, Lanao del Norte, Lanao del Sur, Samar, Masbate, Nueva Ecija, Abra and other hotspots in the country and ensure that the justice department prioritizes the prosecution of leaders and members of private armed groups with the end view of conviction at the soonest time possible. (JMR/Sunnex)