The Bane of Urban Militarization

On the other hand, soldiers are trained for combat. They are trained to seek out, engage and kill their supposed enemies. They are not informed about laws and rights because they are conditioned that in the battlefield, you either kill or be killed. That is the danger of deploying soldiers in Metro Manila. When the AFP deployed troops in cities and urban centers outside of Metro Manila, political killings and enforced disappearances of unarmed political activists increased. Because the government identifies militant organizations and progressive party-lists such as Bayan Muna (BM or People First), Gabriela Women’s Party (GWP), and Anakpawis (Toiling Masses) as “enemies of the state” and “front organizations” of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA), the leaders and members of these groups are targeted for “neutralization” (read: murder). Is this then the purpose of deploying soldiers in Metro Manila?

Before the May 2007 elections, soldiers were already deployed in depressed communities in Metro Manila. The AFP then claimed that they were there to help in maintaining peace and order and to put a stop to the agitation of people to join rallies. Immediately the soldiers assigned to the communities visited the houses of and harassed members and organizers of Bayan Muna, GWP, Anakpawis and Kabataan. When these parties filed a complaint of electioneering and harassment before the Commission on Elections (Comelec), the AFP was forced to partially withdraw their troops so as not to be accused of influencing the elections. Reports reaching Bulatlat revealed, however, that the AFP did not actually withdraw all their troops; the number of soldiers in communities was merely reduced and those who stayed wore civilian clothes to conceal their presence.

With the recent announcement of the AFP, are they now preparing to intensify their military operations in Metro Manila? Does this mean that the spate of political killings and enforced disappearances of political activists would intensify to include targets in Metro Manila? Are they preparing to use the Anti-Terrorism Law, euphemistically called the Human Security Act, to suppress dissent and crackdown on the Macapagal-Arroyo administration’s identified enemies?

The moment the Filipino people allows these to happen then we might as well kiss our civil liberties goodbye. We might as well wait for the axe to fall our way. The fascist mindset of the Arroyo government is reflected in 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. On the contrary peace precedes order. For if the people are free from poverty and want, and are able to develop holistically; if they have food, freedom, jobs and justice, as the late Sen. Jose W. Diokno has eloquently defined human rights to be, then there will be no wars nor crimes.(

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