By SIMON “Ka Filiw” NAOGSAN, Spokesperson
Cordillera People's Democratic Front
In his latest letter to the editor published in three Cordillera weekly newspapers, Capt. Adonis Bañez, spokesperson for the 501st Brigade of the Philippine Army, made several baseless and unfounded accusations against the revolutionary movement. He recycled the military’s outrageous lie that the soldiers ambushed last 9 July in Samoki, Bontoc who were alive and wounded were finished off by shots fired point blank, and all the casualties were stripped of their clothing and belongings.
It is a strict policy of the New People's Army not to inflict harm on captured enemy personnel and those who are no longer capable of fighting back, in accordance with its own Rules of Discipline, International Humanitarian Law and rules of war.
No soldiers survived the short burst of fire in the ambush. The NPA assault team that closed in on the vehicle found no wounded survivors. Had there been any survivors, they would have been provided first aid and moved to a safe spot where they could be immediately seen by AFP or Philippine National Police reinforcements.
The NPA captures weapons and military equipment only, clothing and other personal belongings of enemy casualties are not included. The tactical offensive in Samoki was over in a few minutes. There was hardly enough time to gather the weapons, how much more to strip the casualties of their clothing. There were commuters who watched from a distance and saw how quickly the NPA unit attacked and withdrew.
On the other hand, it is the operating units of the 5th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army that “finished off” point blank, and desecrated the corpses of the wounded and captured NPA fighters Magno “Ka Braga” Ayabo and Sammy Rey “Ka Cholo” Cayago in 2004 and 2008 respectively. Some innocent civilians murdered by operating AFP troops were used for target practice, the latest case was Elmer Valdez in Conconig East, Sta. Lucia, Ilocos Sur last 10 September.
Capt. Bañez flatly denies that AFP troops have ever occupied day-care centers, school buildings, barangay halls, dap-ay and civilian houses. This really shows how AFP civilian relations officers are trained to lie with impunity.
Let us inform Capt. Bañez that, right now, troops are occupying the barangay halls of Ankileng and Balugan both in Sagada, Mountain Province. From 29 June up to 5 July, AFP troops occupied the school buildings at Bagnin Elementary School and Gutang Primary School both in Bauko, Mountain Province.
Earlier, school buildings in Alab, Bontoc; Data, Sabangan; and Aguid, Tanulong and Antadao all in Sagada were used as temporary detachments. The daycare centers of Belwang, Sadanga; Tamboan, Besao; Pidlisan, Sagada; and Talampac, Lacub were utilized as barracks at one time or another.
The Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) signed by the Philippine government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines expressly prohibits billeting any armed groups in populated centers or public buildings because it endangers the safety of civilians. It is the military that is clearly violating the CARHRIHL.
The military operations in the three municipalities of Eastern Mountain Province from mid-August to September prove that the 5th ID does not adhere to CARHRIHL. Partial listing of human rights violations during the operation include the illegal arrest, detention and harassment of Henrich Wandag Bucalan, and the destruction of ready for harvest crops in Sitio Tappo, Banawel, Natonin. In Mainit, Bontoc, AFP troops slept underneath stilted houses forcing home owners to sleep at their neighbor’s homes for fear of their lives.
AFP troops were also found to have intentionally razed mountain slopes in Mt. Andanum and Mt. Buwas both in Dacudac, Tadian; Mt. Bato and Mt. Lalangnan both in Mainit, Bontoc; Mt. Atey in Dalican, Bontoc; Mt. Kabasila in Banaao, Tadian; Mt. Buasao and Mt. Lamagan in Gueday, Besao; and Mt. Alipiniw in Bagnin, Bauko.
The fact remains that the areas targeted for continuous military operations are the same areas in the mining applications of large-scale mining companies, not only in Mountain Province but in the rest of the Cordillera. The history of the Cordillera is replete with instances where massive military deployment and operations were undertaken to protect mining exploration and other large-scale extractive projects. It was true under Martial Law, it remains true now.
Are these not violations of the rights of the national minorities to their ancestral domain? The ongoing militarization worsens the national oppression of the indigenous peoples of the Cordillera.
It was BGen. Jose Mabanta Jr who announced that AFP Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Ricardo David Jr instructed AFP field commanders to “look into the possibility of having such an arrangement with the many international companies”(pertaining to securing large-scale corporate mining companies). Surely, the statements of both generals in this matter carry more weight than the hysterical denial issued by Capt. Bañez. The statement of both generals establishes the truth regarding the role of the AFP in the Mountain Province and the rest of the Cordillera.
As shown above, the oft-repeated lies of military spokespersons like Capt. Bañez can easily be disproven by facts. The military employs psywar tactics such as barraging media with statements that lack substance and are intended to cover up military violations of human and socio-political rights. There will be more violations of the people’s rights now that the Aquino regime has disregarded calls for the resumption of peace talks between the GRP and the NDFP and has instead opted to extend Oplan Bantay Laya until the AFP announces its new counter-insurgency strategy by January 2011.
Capt. Bañez need not quote to us the contents of the “Convergence Approach” which he and his superiors in the 5th ID trumpet as the solution to counter-insurgency. We understand what it is and reaffirm our stand that it is nothing more than a copycat of the US Counter-insurgency Guide, inclusive of the coercion of the local government bureaucracy, tribal elders, church leaders, and various community formations to support military operations. We repeat that this methodology, by whatever name it is called, has failed in the past and will continue to fail because it does not have the people’s interest at heart. It does not address the reasons why people chose to wage revolutionary struggle, it is only interested in how to crush the revolutionary struggle. People are driven to resist and rebel because of the poverty and powerlessness imposed on them by an unjust, corrupt, and violent social system. It is this system that Capt. Bañez and the rest of the AFP have upheld to defend.
It is unfortunate that the current administration has refused to resume the stalled peace talks between the GRP and the NDFP. Warmongers in the military and government are pushing for greater militarization under the guise of such catchy names such as the Convergence Approach. Despite this, the Cordillera People’s Democratic Front and the rest of the revolutionary movement will strive for just and lasting peace based on national liberation and democracy.