We would like to protest the accusations directed against Bulatlat.com and its staff by Captain Alberto Caber, public affairs office chief of the Eastern Mindanao Command, as reported in an October 4, 2013 interaksyon.com article Military claims ‘captured’ UP physicist is communist rebel written by Jaime Sinapit.
While justifying UP professor Kim Gargar’s arrest and presenting alleged statements of Gargar to bolster the military’s claim that he is a New People’s Army guerrilla, Captain Caber reportedly noted “Gargar’s wife is a writer of the leftist Bulatlat.com online news website.”
Why, may we ask, did Captain Caber feel the need to mention Gargar’s wife’s work with Bulatlat.com? In what context and for what purpose did Captain Caber accuse Bulatlat.com of being leftist?
This anachronistic, malicious accusation and insinuation of a military officer, a public affairs spokesman at that, reminds us of Cold war-era politics and martial law, 41 years ago, when anyone critical of the Marcos dictatorship was branded as a communist, leftist and subversive, and therefore was subjected to arrest, detention, torture, and worse, enforced disappearance or extrajudicial killing. Organizations and news agencies accused of being leftist and subversive then were declared illegal, its offices padlocked, such was the case of the former We Forum of press freedom icon Joe Burgos. This knee-jerk, unsubstantiated branding and accusation by the military against organizations and persons also reminds us of Oplan Bantay Laya, the counterinsurgency program of the previous Arroyo administration, which claimed the lives of a thousand people.
Where is the supposed new human rights-oriented mindset of the AFP under Oplan Bayanihan? Is it just an empty declaration of the AFP?
Is the Armed Forces of the Philippines accusing Bulatlat.com of being leftist because of our reportage of violations of human rights and international humanitarian law, which earned us numerous awards and citations from agencies such as the International Committee of the Red Cross? Is it because Bulatlat.com has consistently written about the struggles of workers for just wages and working conditions, of peasants for the land they till, of indigenous peoples for their right to self-determination, of the urban poor for jobs, housing and social services, of overseas Filipinos for decent jobs in the country and protection of their rights while abroad, of women and children against all forms of oppression and exploitation, of the youth for a nationalist, mass-oriented and scientific education? Is it because Bulatlat.com has always stood in defense of our national sovereignty and patrimony and the welfare and interests of the Filipino people and not just a few? Is it because we have criticized the anti-people policies and acts of the Aquino administration as well as that of the former Estrada and Macapagal-Arroyo administrations?
If that is so, we are proud to be called leftist. But make no mistake about it; all of us have rights, even leftists, if the country is truly under a democracy.
Spokesmen of organizations are supposed to present the “best side” of that organization even if they have to lie with a straight face. Are Captain Alberto Caber’s statements the best that the AFP could offer?
If yes, then nothing much has changed from the obsolete but nevertheless dangerous militaristic mindset of the Armed Forces of the Philippines under the Aquino administration, which declares itself as the exact opposite of the corrupt and bloodstained administration of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
The more government officials insist that things have changed, the more it is the same; and the more things remain the same, the harder should the Filipino people fight to assert our basic rights and to pursue democracy.