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Philippines Table of Contents


Reserves and Auxiliaries

The Philippine reserve program was founded on the citizen army concept laid out in the National Defense Act of 1935, whereby defense would be provided by a limited professional cadre backed by citizen reservists rather than by a large conscript army. In 1989 the AFP claimed that active forces of about 153,500 people were backed by some 800,000 reservists. However, this number probably included all eligible former soldiers, many of whom might be difficult to recall. Other sources placed total reserve strength at 128,000--approximately 100,000 in the army, 12,000 in the navy, and 16,000 in the air force. Only a small fraction of these--less than 50,000--were thought to be active by involved in the reserve program.

The AFP reserve program was administered by an element of the General Headquarters staff, within the office of civil-military operations. Reserve forces fell into two major categories: Auxiliary Reserve Units and Citizens Armed Forces Geographic Units (CAFGUs). Reservists of the first category were predesignated civilians in critical public sector jobs, such as electric power and water service, who were subject to federal mobilization. They had no military training and were not intended to support military operations directly in the event of a callup .

The CAFGUs consisted of both inactive military reserve forces and militia units actively involved in counterinsurgency. Each service had its own inactive CAFGU reserve component. On paper, the army had thirteen divisions of CAFGU reservists, one in each political region, including Manila. These units, however, never trained nor even conducted organizational meetings. Instead, Regional Community Defense Units--which administered the Citizen Military Training program--maintained rosters of individual reservists. A few reserve officers participated at their own expense in annual training, but there was no individual training for enlisted reservists.

CAFGU active auxiliaries--essentially militia who provided for village self-defense--were the heart of the reserve program. Under the direct control of the active military, they replaced the Marcos-era Civilian Home Defense Force, a poorly trained and equipped force widely criticized as being corrupt and abusive. Members of the active CAFGUs were full-time militia who were recruited and based in their home areas, where they were charged with defending against insurgent attacks. CAFGU companies were trained and commanded by active officers and NCOs of the army and constabulary. If mobilized, the militia were to become part of their sponsoring active army or constabulary unit. The 720 CAFGU active auxiliary companies had around 64,000 members in 1990.

Other armed groups, labeled vigilantes, were sometimes sponsored or endorsed by the military. Aquino initially praised some of these anticommunist citizens' groups--such as Davao City's Alsa Masa (Masses Arise)--for their success at discouraging communist insurgent activity in their neighborhoods during the late 1980s. In 1988, however, an international human rights group charged that Philippine vigilantes had committed "grave violations on a wide scale." Armed forces-sponsored selfdefense groups who were unarmed were not so controversial. These civilian volunteer organizations, including Bantay Bayan (Nation Watch), supported the military by reporting insurgent activity in their barangays.

Data as of June 1991