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Iraq and Afghan jobs under scanner Print

06/17/2006 - By Claro Cortes, Correspondent 

Manila: A Philippine Senate committee will investigate reports that mercenary outfits are recruiting former Filipino policemen and soldiers for lucrative security duties in Iraq and Afghanistan.Senator Rodolfo Biazon, a former armed forces chief of staff who now heads the Senate Committee on National Defence, said he is set to begin investigating reports about the recruitment of former soldiers and policemen to serve as mercenaries in the two-war torn countries.

Biazon said he was gathering information on US companies which were enticing Filipinos with military or police background to work overseas with generous salaries of $1,700 (Dh6,245) to $5,000 (Dh18,367) a month plus insurance.

Two American companies Blackwater USA and Triple Canopy have been identified as engaged in recruitment and deployment.

"I want to know the impact of this on our laws like the bearing of firearms during their training," Biazon told reporters.

Biazon said he has secured a copy of a contract between the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) and Blackwater for the use of freeport grounds for the combat training of Filipino recruits.

He said the alleged contract gives premium to applicants with military and police background. He added Blackwater has manpower contracts with the Pentagon.

Earlier, Romy Redelicia, local representative of Blackwater, said the company has deployed a "few" Filipinos to work as security guards in the US Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan.

He said the employment contracts of the workers in Afghanistan are registered with the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA).

Redelicia denied that Blackwater has recruited Filipinos for work in Iraq in violation of the government ban on deployment to that war-torn country.

Triple Canopy last year reportedly sent 300 workers, mostly former soldiers, to Iraq. Their jobs are unclear although some who have finished their contracts said they had come under fire and had to repulse their attackers.

Triple Canopy is represented in the Philippines by Mark Villacruzes, an American of Filipino descent. The recruitment is apparently in line with the US? "outsourcing" of some of the duties performed by its armed forces.

Biazon said he was initially focusing on Blackwater, which recruits people who are skilled in intelligence work, security operations, and K-9 handling.

Biazon said the same private military company also recruited "mercenaries" in Guatemala but ran into trouble after the host government raised gun ban violations.

POEA administrator Rosalinda Baldoz earlier said her agency has not given a license to any American company for the recruitment of Filipinos for military and paramilitary work, particularly in Iraq and Afghanistan.

SBMA officials have denied Blackwater's presence in Subic. 

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