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Dumaguete City, PhilippinesFriday, June 8, 2012
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Church leaders cautious
on arming of RPA-ABB

BY JUDY F. PARTLOW

Some Catholic Church leaders in Negros Island are worried about repercussions in the plan to arm members of the Revolutionary Proletarian Army-Alex Boncayao Brigade once a closure is reached in the peace talks between the breakaway rebel group and the Philippine government.

 Fr. Burton Villarmente, coordinator of the Social Action Center Diocese of Dumaguete, raised the issue during the meeting of the Church-Military Advisory Group held in Dumaguete City, Negros Oriental, recently.

He said the ongoing peace talks between the Philippine government and the RPA-ABB includes letting some members of the breakaway group carry firearms within pre-designated communities to protect themselves from harassment and possible attacks.

Army officials also revealed earlier that once the closure in the peace talks is reached, the RPA-ABB members will be trained like the Civilian Armed Auxiliary of the Philippine Army, and allowed to carry firearms as barangay watchmen.

But Villarmente said SAC coordinators from other dioceses, who attended the CMAG meeting, expressed apprehension over the plan as it can be abused.

CMAG members, composed of officials from the Armed Forces of the Philippines, the Philippine Army, the Philippine National Police, and the four dioceses in Negros Island, will hold a special meeting to further discuss the concern, Villarmente said.

He expressed hope that the issue on the arming of RPA-ABB members will be ironed out before the peace talks end.*JFP

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