A great man once said: History repeats itself first as tragedy, then as farce. With the recent formation of the Citizen National Guard (CNG), the aforementioned line again rings alarm.

Who can forget how national hero Jose Rizal portrayed the wanton violence, inhumanity, and decrepit corruption of the Spanish-era Guardia Civil in his books? Now, a newly-formed group threatens to follow the footsteps of the reviled Guardia Civil, all in the name of helping the President to fight against “enemies of the state.”

No less than Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II and Public Attorney’s Office chief Persida Acosta graced the launch of the CNG last October 3, a group that supposedly seeks to protect the government from so-called “enemies” identified as the following: ISIS-inspired terrorism, the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA), drug cartels, the political opposition dubbed as “yellowtards,” and “foreign intelligence agencies generating international support for regime change.”

Despite introducing themselves and their objectives in a public event that brought along two high-ranking justice officials, the CNG in itself is an epitome of insolent vagueness. Who are its actual members, apart from the retired and reserve military officers it bared publicly? How many are they? And why is the Department of Justice providing them the mantle of legality?

Amid the heavy fog of uncertainty surrounding this new group, one thing is becoming certain: This is an alarming state-sponsored effort to silence not just the political opposition but also all forms of criticism against the Duterte regime. This group perceives vocal critics of the administration not just political opponents, but as “enemies of the state,” thereby justifying what we fear will be an intensified violent attack against the people.

Including the CPP-NPA and to some extent, Moro groups, in the CNG’s order of battle not only betrays the government’s future plans to continue fighting with these groups, but also betrays how the current administration fails to appreciate or express serious concern over ongoing peace negotiations that discuss the roots of raging conflicts in the countryside.

Just stop and imagine how this regime – which unabashedly killed and continue killing thousands in recent months and days in its Tokhang efforts – will maximize this newly-formed vigilante group of die-hard apologists to threaten the lives of critics, opponents, and virtually anyone and everyone expressing the slightest disagreement against Duterte. With the rise of such state-sanctioned vigilante group, the question would no longer be who is right, but rather, who will be left alive.

We cannot emphasize enough the danger posed by the resurgence of the Guardia Civil through the CNG. At a time when the Duterte regime even tries to shrug off the existence of extrajudicial killings and the worsening state of human rights in the country, we cannot simply accept the formation of what is virtually a civil paramilitary group out to extinguish not just opposing ideas but real lives.


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