A hearing on the presence of the military in urban poor communities conducted by the Commission on Human Rights turned into a confrontation between officials of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and members of militant organizations. Harry Roque, counsel for the complainants, expressed dismay over the practice of military officals tagging members of progressive organizations as NPA recruiters.
BY EMILY VITAL
Vol. VII, No. 12 April 29-May 5, 2007
A lieutenant of the Armed Forces of the Philippines tagged progressive organizations as recruiters of the New People’s Army (NPA) in a hearing called for by the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), April 26.
Residents of various urban poor communities in Metro Manila filed separate complaints before the CHR on April 2 and April 23. They decried harassment from elements of the Civilian Military Operations (CMO) Battalion.
Col. Ricardo Visaya, commanding officer of the CMO Battalion, maintained that their role is to augment the police in maintaining peace and order and implement pro-poor programs for the people. Visaya denied reports of harassment by his men. “Hindi naming pinahihintulatan ang mga abuso.” (We do not tolerate abuses.) he claimed.
Lt. Col. Jose Loy said, “We have a holistic approach to counter-insurgency. Our goal is to eradicate the roots of communism.”
Loy told the complainants, “Hanap namin mga recruiter ninyo…Sa NDF, kasama na mga progresibong samahan gaya ninyo.” (We are looking for your recruiters…Progressive organizations like yours are members of the NDF).
The National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) is the umbrella organization of underground organizations allied with the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the New People’s Army (NPA).
Loy continued, “Gumagawa kami ng case build-up. Kapag may ebidensya na, hahatulan namin.” (We are building up our cases. When we have enough evidence, we will pass judgment.) When the complainants reacted, Loy quickly added, ”pa-file-an ng kaso.” (We will file cases).
Joanna Rose Adenit, a student of the Philippine Normal University (PNU) and one of the complainants asked Loy, “Nililista ninyo na ba ang mga taong isusunod ninyong papatayin?” (Are you making a list of people you will kill?)
Loy answered back, “Ang sakit mo namang magsalita… Paano naman ang mga pinapatay ng armadong grupo ninyo?” (Your words hurt… How about those who have been killed by your armed group?)
Loy was referring to the NPA, the armed wing of the CPP.
Atty. Harry Roque, legal counsel of the complainants, told the military officials, “Hindi iligal ang pagiging komunista. Walang dahilan para hanapin ninyo sila sa mga komunidad. Para magkakaso ng rebelyon kinakailangan ang paggamit ng dahas, paggamit ng baril. Hindi ko maintindihan ang inyong patakaran.” (It is not illegal to be a communist. You have no reason to look for them in the communities. To be accused of rebellion one has to commit violence, use guns. I cannot understand your policy.)
When a student from the Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP) stood up to speak, Loy commented, “Komunista ‘yan.” (That one is a communist.)
Speaking before the protesters outside the CHR, Roque said,”Hindi maganda ang lantarang pagbibintang sa mga grupo.” (Publicly accusing groups as NPA recruiters is not good.)
Roque said, “Sarado na po ang isipan ng AFP. Para sa kanila, tayo na taumbayan, ay kanila nang kalaban dahil nagpaparekrut daw tayo sa NPA.” (The AFP is so narrow-minded. For them, we, the people, are their enemies because we allegedly join the NPA.)
The human rights lawyer said,”Ang terorista ay ang mga lumalabag sa karapatang pantao.” (The real terrorists are those who violate human rights.) Bulatlat