As a human rights worker – more specifically, as spokesperson of the Kawagib Moro Human Rights Alliance – 21-year-old Bai Ali Indayla has had her “fair share” of brushes with government agents. These usually occurred during rallies, where she would see men without press IDs taking pictures of protesters. Still, she was alarmed when she found out that she, specifically, had become the target of a surveillance operation by no less than an agent of the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (NICA).
BY ALEXANDER MARTIN REMOLLINO
HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH
As a human rights worker – more specifically, as spokesperson of the Kawagib Moro Human Rights Alliance – 21-year-old Bai Ali Indayla has had her “fair share” of brushes with government agents. These usually occurred during rallies, where she would see men without press IDs taking pictures of protesters.
Still, she was alarmed when she found out that she, specifically, had become the target of a surveillance operation by no less than an agent of the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (NICA).
Last Feb. 10, at around 10 a.m., a man went to the Academic Related Services (ARS) office at the Cotabato City State College (CCSC), where Indayla was a student leader before becoming Kawagib’s spokesperson. He asked the staff several questions about her and even asked for copies of The Torch (CCSC’s official student publication) that were published while she was its editor-in-chief. He also asked about student activities that were conducted under her term as president of CCSC’s supreme student government. The man even had her yearbook picture photocopied.
He left a business card at the ARS office identifying him as Napoleon Olvara Aragones – a specialist at the NICA Regional Office XII.
After this, the ARS staff sent for the current Torch staff and advised them to warn Indayla about what had happened, which they promptly did.
“I was alarmed when I learned that a NICA agent had gone to the ARS and profiled me,” Indayla said in an interview. “I thought that maybe I’m already in the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) and NICA Order of Battle.”
In an archived version of its old website (http://web.archive.org/web/20031007034829/www.nica.gov.ph/index.php?nav=prof&cat=History, accessed Feb. 25, 2009), the NICA is described as follows:
The NICA was created by virtue of Executive Order 235 signed by then President Elpidio Quirino on 7 July 1949 in response to the need for a central entity that would coordinate the intelligence collection activities of the various government instrumentalities. As such, the NICA was responsible for coordinating all government activities relative to national intelligence and preparing national intelligence estimates of local and foreign situations for the formulation of national policies by the President.
In 1954, the findings of a task force of the Government Survey and Reorganization Commission as regards NICA were embodied in Reorganization Plan 54-A and implemented by Executive Order 291. This order was intended to enable the NICA to meet the expanding needs and requirements of national service. In effect, it gave the Agency legal and specific powers and functions to carry out more effectively its mission of providing guidance in decision-making and national policy formulation.
Following the declaration of martial law, President Ferdinand Marcos signed Presidential Decree 51 on 16 November 1972, abolishing NICA and creating the National Intelligence and Security Authority. The NISA had the same mission as the old organization but with broader powers. The Director General, NISA had direct supervision over the NSC Secretariat, functional direction and control over the Civil Intelligence and Security Agency and the intelligence functions of the AFP Intelligence Community. The CISA was responsible primarily for counterintelligence and exercised functional supervision and control over civil security units of all governmental offices. The DG, NISA was also the Chairman of the National Intelligence Board, which was retained as his advisory body on matters pertaining to the integration and coordination of intelligence activities.
The EDSA people power revolution in February 1986 ushered in major changes in the organization. With the issuance of Executive Order 246 on 24 July 1987, the NISA and CISA were abolished to pave the way for the creation of the present National Intelligence Coordinating Agency.
The NICA is under the Office of the President, as stated in EO 246. It is under the administrative supervision of and gives support services to the National Security Council (NSC), but may report directly to the Office of the President if so required.
Indayla sees no other reason for her to be subject to the NICA’s surveillance operations except her work as Kawagib spokesperson.
“We strongly call for the pull-out of troops from Moro communities and we condemn human rights violations,” Indayla said. “We also call for the ouster of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo because of her all-out war policy and because of her taking advantage of the Moro problem for her personal interests.”
She is convinced that the surveillance operation on her is part of the Arroyo government’s implementation of Oplan Bantay Laya (OBL or Operation Freedom Watch) II, the second phase of a counter-“insurgency” plan currently in force.
“Under OBL II, everyone considered an enemy of the state or critics of the government are target for neutralization or liquidation,” she said. “Even members of progressive organizations, activists, church people, journalists and even human rights defenders are subject to this operation. Extrajudicial killings and other human rights violations have been rampant since the government implemented OBL… OBL is a refusal to recognize the civil and political rights of the Filipino people.”
Even as she was alarmed upon learning that she specifically has become the subject of a surveillance operation, Indayla remains defiant and says her work has not been greatly affected. “Taking measures to ensure our security has, in any case, long been part of our work as human rights advocates,” she said. (Bulatlat.com)