The AFP is telling us we need more NPA guerrillas

Could there be a group working for the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army within the Armed Forces of the Philippines? If so, it should be congratulating itself right now.

The armed forces is in another deep trouble of its own making. And the longer it struggles to excuse themselves for shitting on the public, the more shit it produces to bury itself in. To get out of it quick, the military really should just free the 43 health workers ASAP.

Just two months after elements of the AFP were exposed to have been linked to the gruesome Ampatuan massacre, they now figure in a tragic comedy of errors — tragic for the victims, of course, but for the AFP, too, after all is said and done. Their comedy of errors is hugely benefiting their sworn enemies, the communist rebels themselves. How? By providing the NPA an extensively great PR. Even Conrado de Quiros, known for his anti-NPA columns, has noticed the irony and wrote about it in his column in the Philippine Daily Inquirer entitled “Join the NPA.”

If the communists have such committed health workers who would strive to serve the health needs of Filipinos in farflung areas — when the legal government has been exporting its health workers for precious dollars while scrimping on health budgets and salaries of its own health workers — then they may not be bad at all as the AFP would have us believe.

If what the AFP is saying is true — that the NPA has a shadow health bureau with such devoted practitioners as the likes of Dr. Alex Montes, a God-loving surgeon who brings his family of doctors to the barrios for medical missions, and who at his age continues to share his expertise to the less fortunate — then let us indeed have more NPAs in our midst.

This must be excruciatingly cruel for the AFP. It vowed to end the communist insurgency this year. Instead, it ends up suggesting to the country how extensive the communist guerrillas’ organizations are. (As in, wow!, the NPAs actually have a health department serving the people.)

The AFP tries to malign the 43 health workers by calling them communists. Instead, it is suggesting to the country that NPA guerrillas are dedicated and seriously serving the people, against all odds. Come March 29, when the NPA celebrates another anniversary, their leaders can simply choose to link to the AFP’s website to show the international community how good they are in providing services for the Filipino people. Maybe it is time other countries stopped calling the CPP-NPA as “terrorists” and start giving them the aid money that are currently being given to the Arroyo government. This aid seems destined to be really put to good use by the NPA. Just imagine the health services the guerrillas would be able to provide with some funding?

And while we’re at it, hadn’t the military also accused the NPA of building schools for the tribes of Surigao and elsewhere? Maybe the NPA is also better at educating the Filipinos? It may have its own education department, for all we know!

Meanwhile, what has the AFP been doing? It should be the good guy. Soldiers are our legally mandated soldiers, the troops we are supporting with our hard-earned money and taxes. But what are the good things the AFP is doing? That is, when not working with warlords like the Ampatuans, when not massacring farmers and striking workers, when not escorting the mining and logging companies and landgrabbers to the forests and the mountains, when not aiding the likes of Garci and Lintang Bedol to install fraudulent presidents in Malacañang, when not hauling off to secret jails activists such as the 43 health workers?

The AFP is losing its war against the NPA very badly. To salvage its reputation and revert to depicting the NPA as the bad guy, the military should stop calling the 43 health workers anything but just that — health workers. It should stop sticking to its version of the law, where it sees the raid of the house of a Dr. Melecia Velmonte as lawful. It should free the 43 health workers because it has no basis to detain them.

It could hold on to its argument and to the detainees. But the longer it stubbornly does that, the longer the military looks like the bad guy and the NPA as the good guy. The AFP could win its case in the Court of Appeals but it would lose the war against the NPA and public opinion.

If the AFP doesn’t look out, it just might inadvertently show the world that all these years, Karapatan, the human-rights group, is indeed correct in pointing to military elements as the masterminds and perpetrators of the extrajudicial killings and disappearances. Their conduct in the Feb. 6 raid, detention and interrogation of the health workers, and in the Court of Appeals last Monday where they tried to muzzle the lone witness and the press, is eerily similar to Karapatan’s docus on hundreds of past victims of human-rights violations under Arroyo.

The AFP should cut its losses now. It has nothing to lose but its pride. The war with the NPA — maybe not yet, or not this badly at least.

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