Elements of the military have been roaming around urban centers in Metro Manila, Southern Tagalog and Mindanao with the objective of not only of driving these groups from the communities but campaigning against their candidates.
By RONALYN V. OLEA and JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
MANILA — With the election less than two months away, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has intensified its campaign of intimidation and harassment against progressive organizations and partylist groups, officials of these groups allege.
They said elements of the military have been roaming around urban centers in Metro Manila, Southern Tagalog and Mindanao with the objective of not only flushing out these groups from the communities but campaigning against their candidates.
Cherry Clemente, secretary-general of Anakpawis, said the 73rd squad of the Air Force has stationed itself inside a multipurpose hall just beside their local chapter’s office in Valenzuela, one of the cities in Metro Manila. She said eight soldiers even asked Anakpawis members to remove the flag draped on their office door.
On Wednesday, members of Anakpawis and the Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) stormed the AFP’s urban stations in Valenzuela and Caloocan, demanding that the soldiers stopped harassing their officers and members.
Members of progressive groups storm an army station in Valenzuela to protest the harassment. (Photos courtesy of Kilusang Mayo Uno)
Clemente said the soldiers have been campaigning against senatorial candidates Satur Ocampo and Liza Maza, and progressive partylist groups such as Anakpawis, Bayan Muna, Gabriela, Katribu and Kabataan.
“In many instances, they have pretended to do community work in Metro Manila. But in reality, they are carrying out a campaign against progressive partylists and candidates, which is a clear violation of the law,” Clemente said.
As early as January last year, Bulatlat learned that soldiers in civilian clothes have been roaming the communities of Balut and Isla Puting Bato in Tondo, Manila. The soldiers came from the Civil Military Operations (CMO) unit of the AFP.
Based on a factsheet prepared by Gabriela, the soldiers conducted house-to-house visits in Balut, Tondo. They asked residents about their personal circumstances, took photographs and video and asked about the leaders and members of Gabriela in the area.
In Sorsogon, soldiers in full battle gear have also been conducting house-to-house visits in different towns since last week. The supposed survey turned out to be a witchhunt against the Makabayan coalition and progressive partylist groups Bayan Muna, Anakpawis, Gabriela, Kabataan and ACT, Makabayan said in a statement.
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The AFP’s unrelenting disregard of human rights and supremacy of civilian authority over the military is alarming already. But what is even more alarming is the concerned institutions’ indifference and inaction amidst this grave threat to our already fragile democracy. The Arroyo-AFP antiquated defense mechanism of “communist-scare” tactics for vested personal interests has successfully neutralized and even “rendered inutile” these last bastions of democracy of the people, by the people and for the people. Where are you people? Are you ready for the real “people power” this time?