Oplan Bayanihan sows terror in Western Samar

“I would tell them [soldiers] ‘We are not armed. This is not a war. This is just a rally.’ They would say, ‘Legal and underground, you’re the same. You are all NPA [New People’s Army],’” said human rights worker Ma. Josephine Dy


CALBAYOG CITY, Western Samar – Human rights worker Ma. Josephine Dy, 33, is used to being tailed by military agents.

Twice a week, she would see fully armed men roaming around their house in bgy. Matobato, Calbayog City. The men who belong to the 20th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army (IBPA) have set up a detachment 50 meters away from the back of their house.

In March this year, the soldiers from the same unit held a circumcision program at the village’s basketball court. The soldiers warned the residents not to support the communists. “They added that there are communists right here in our community,” Dy told Bulatlat.com in an interview.

Dy said that elsewhere in Calbayog City and other towns in Western Samar, civil-military operations of the Philippine Army under Oplan Bayanihan are coupled with intelligence work and propaganda against what the military considers as leftist organizations.

During rallies in Calbayog City, such as the peasant rally held on October 21 and the public Congressional hearing on Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill (Garb) last month, Dy said heavily armed soldiers guarded the protesters.

“I would tell them ‘We are not armed. This is not a war. This is just a rally.’ They would say, ‘Legal and underground, you’re the same. You are all NPA [New People’s Army],’” Dy said.

In both instances, soldiers took photographs of Dy. Her colleagues confiscated the cameras from the soldiers.

Dy said soldiers also held public meetings in other villages in Calbayog City. “The soldiers would malign people’s organizations as communist fronts,” she said.

Dy added that the soldiers deliberately launched their projects where the projects of progressive party-list groups are located. For instance, the soldiers built classrooms in the school building constructed by Bayan Muna in Calbayog City.

Meanwhile, in Pilaon village, Calbiga town, soldiers forced 15 farmers to wear military uniforms after an NPA ambush on October 19.

“They forced the farmers, wearing their uniforms, to go with them during the night patrol,” Alberto Bersola, coordinator of local peasant group Kapunungan han Gudti nga Parag-uma ha Weste han Samar (Kapawa), said in an interview.

Bersola said there were instances when soldiers would steal chickens from the farms.

In the villages of Binanggaran and Buluan, soldiers of the 34th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army filed charges against village leaders and ordinary farmers in connection with an ambush staged by the NPA on Dec. 10, 2009. Romeo Galvez, village chieftain of Buluan, was arrested Nov. 17.

For Dy, the human right situation in Western Samar remains essentially the same even after retired Gen. Jovito Palparn Jr. left the province several years ago. She noted that Palparan’s men have been promoted, one of whom is still in the island.

Dy said Aquino’s Oplan Bayanihan is “replete with rhetoric of peace but as monstrous as any counterinsurgency program.”

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