The Bane of Urban Militarization

The fascist mindset of the Arroyo government is reflected in the logic of Marikina City Mayor Marides Fernando, in justifying urban militarization, that “order precedes peace.” That is the logic of the all-out wars in Central Luzon, Southern Tagalog, Bicol, Samar and Leyte, Cagayan Valley, CARAGA region, among others, and recently in Basilan and Sulu. That is also the logic of dictators and militarists, of vigilante groups and death squads.

Vol. VII, No. 29, August 26-September 1, 2007

The National Capital Region (NCR) Command of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) announced, August 20, the deployment of three platoons consisting of 80 soldiers to Marikina city. It also admitted, for the first time since the May 2007 elections that it has 160 soldiers in Manila, and 100 in Quezon City, excluding another 98 constructing barangay halls and day care centers. It said it plans to deploy soldiers to Caloocan, Malabon, Navotas, and Valenzuela in the near future. The AFP announced, in clear terms, that the purpose of the deployment of soldiers is to thwart the recruitment of New People’s Army (NPA) guerrillas in depressed communities. But at the same time, it added that there has been no intelligence report of any NPA recruitment in these areas. Now that is something to worry about.

If there has been no report of massive recruitment going on, what is the purpose of the troop deployments? Such number and spread of troop deployments in the National Capital Region are unprecedented. Not even during Martial Law did the government strategically place soldiers in Metro Manila, as if the armed conflict has reached the capital. The NCR command was created during the Marcos dictatorship to secure Malacanang, and Camps Aguinaldo, Crame and Fort Bonifacio. But never has the deployment been this widespread. The National Capital Region then was the area of responsibility of the Metropolitan Command (the infamous Metrocom) of the Philippine Constabulary (PC). Even the arrests of suspected dissidents in Metro Manila were carried out mainly by the Metrocom Intelligence Security Group (MISG) of the late Col. Rolando Abadilla and the Constabulary Security Group (CSG). The Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (ISAFP) was there but the PC had the most number of arrests in Metro Manila, being their area of responsibility.

The current troop deployments are supposedly being welcomed by local government officials including barangay (village) captains and councillors. Marikina Mayor Fernando was even quoted as saying that “order precedes peace.” Barangay officials, and some residents, also see the deployment as a solution to the worsening peace and order situation. Last May, one resident was quoted as saying that since the troops were deployed, cell phone snatching in their community has abated.

If these are the reasons why the deployment of soldiers is necessary then there is something wrong with the way we see and solve things. The maintenance of peace and order in Metro Manila, and all urban centers for that matter, is the purview of the police. Even the AFP has clarified that the soldiers are not there to supplant the functions of the police.

Some would say that soldiers are more effective because they are more disciplined than police officers and that they are not in cahoots with criminals. If police officers are not effective in doing their job, the solution is not to deploy soldiers to do police work but to replace all ineffective and corrupt police officers. Is Director General Oscar Calderon ready to admit that the whole Philippine National Police (PNP) is not effective in doing its job?

In fact police officers are supposedly more trained for maintaining peace and order. They are trained how to detect and investigate criminal activities, and deal with criminals. They are more knowledgeable about laws because they are supposed to act within the bounds of law in dealing with suspects (in theory, of course). The police, not the military, are supposed to undertake arrests of suspects. They also write the report and process complaints for the filing of appropriate charges.

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