Benjie Oliveros | AFP Getting Bolder — or More Desperate — as 2010 Draws Near


MANILA — Who believes the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) when it said that Corporal Guerrero Hannival Mosura Mondido of the Marines was not conducting surveillance but merely undergoing a training session on intelligence work when he was caught spying on the house of National Artist Bienvenido Lumbera at 6 a.m. of Sept. 17?

The Arroyo government has a penchant for issuing inane excuses that insult the intelligence of the Filipino people whenever it is caught red-handed in a wrongdoing.

In the first place, why choose Lumbera’s house when there are thousands of houses between Camp Aguinaldo, the AFP headquarters, and the subdivision where Lumbera lives? Better still, why choose a private residence to practice on?

Surely, the choice was not random. The Navy admitted that it provided the address to Lumbera’s residence. So why choose Lumbera?

Of course, Lumbera is not only a National Artist — he is also a progressive professor who is involved in various advocacies such as for a progressive culture, a liberating education, teachers’ rights, human rights, among others.

Lumbera was recently in the limelight because he was one of the first to protest President Arroyo’s abuse of power when she chose to disregard the process of naming national artists through dagdag-bawas, removing one of those nominated and adding four names from outside the list of nominees.

By choosing a high-profile personality such as Lumbera to be the subject of intense surveillance — utilizing three operatives — the AFP manifested that it would spare no one in its bloody witch-hunt dubbed Oplan Bantay Laya.

The surveillance on Lumbera came on the heels of the killing of a Catholic priest Father Cecilio Lucero.

Father Lucero, parish priest of Catubig, Samar, was killed after being ambushed by 30 armed men in Sitio Puente, Barangay Lahuyan, San Jose town, Northern Samar. Father Lucero was not just a priest – he was a committed human-rights advocate who was one of the few priests, according to recently retired Lingayen Archbishop Oscar Cruz, who took to heart his mission of serving the people.

Father Lucero chaired the Committee on Human Rights and the Task Force Peace and Order of the Diocese of Catarman. He was an active member of the Promotion of Church People’s Response.

Father Lucero is the 26th member of the clergy who became a victim of extrajudicial killings under the Arroyo government. He is the first Catholic priest to be killed after the dark years of martial law. Being a predominantly Catholic country, the Catholic clergy and nuns are usually spared from the brutal attacks of the AFP because of its political implications. The Catholic Church is a powerful institution and the religious are widely respected. The killing of a Catholic priest or nun could spark widespread anger. Thus, even during the peak of martial law, the killings and forced disappearances of Catholic priests and nuns are few and far in-between.

By targeting Father Lucero, the Arroyo government and the AFP are showing that it is becoming so desperate that it would risk the political implications of killing a Catholic priest.

The Arroyo government and the AFP have set 2010 as the deadline for defeating the insurgency and thus, the end of Oplan Bantay Laya. However, it is still far from defeating or decimating neither the New People’s Army (NPA) nor the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). That is why it is getting bolder, or rather more desperate. It targets anybody on the mere suspicion of having sympathies to the revolutionary movement by being actively involved in advocacies that promote and defend the rights and welfare of the people and run counter to the interests of those in power.

Angrily reacting to Father Lucero’s killing, Archbishop Cruz asked, “Where is their soul?” Indeed. Ever since I was a child, I have heard lots of stories of men — Faust among them — so desperate that they have lost their souls. (

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