By ROEL AGUSTIN II
Spokesperson, NPA Comval-Davao East Coast Subregional Command
Two kilometers away from its command post, a platoon-sized advance command unit of the 67th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army was hit by command-detonated explosives of the New People’s Army, at 10:00am of 30 June 2014, in Barangay (village) Aliwagwag, Cateel, Davao Oriental. Killed were five fascist soldiers and injured were six other members of the Army unit that is known to protect the province’s massive logging operations.
Huge logging operations in the East Coast are also backed by Governor Corazon Malanyaon, Congressman Elmer Dayanghirang, and Cateel Mayor Camilo Nunez. Under the pretext of “logs retrieval operation” from a cutting permit released by the Department of Social Welfare and Development, unabated logging has flourished in an already disaster-ravaged and denuded territory. Millions of profits have been amassed by the abusive officials and the military while the masses in majority villages in the East Coast continue to suffer from loss of livelihood, homelessness, and disrupted education for more than a year after Supertyphoon Pablo (international name: Bopha) struck and washed away their farms and houses in 4 December 2012.
A survey in the typhoon-affected areas shows how the military intimidates the masses whenever they avail of social services by welfare private organizations. In Barangay Taytayan, Cateel and in Barangay Binondo, Baganga, Davao Oriental, the 67th Infantry Battalion soldiers force people’s organizations to sign waivers to prevent the establishment of schools which are sponsored by nongovernment organizations.
The same unit withheld funds and benefits under the cash-for-work projects that it is implementing on behalf of the Department of Labor and Employment and the International Labor Organization. Supposed beneficiaries were not able to avail of SSS, Philhealth and daily wages of PhP301 each (US$7.00) as the Armed Forces of the Philippines used the same program for its intelligence activities and civil military operations in the hinterland villages.
The same Army unit is also part of the corrupt and substandard housing project implementation in Cateel town. Some of the 1,179 family-beneficiaries who were promised each with PhP92,000-worth of housing (US$2,110) failed to avail of the program and were, instead, asked to sign a waiver and PhP10,000 cash (US$230). Others who secured the poorly constructed sub-standard housing first paid PhP1,000 (US$23.00) to village captains before their families occupied the houses.
As they meddle with and steal funds of GPH’s civilian agencies, the 67th Infantry Battalion soldiers also conduct psychological warfare and intimidation against the masses. When they are hit by the NPA ambush, they direct their ire against civilian masses, prevent them from attending assemblies of their organizations and prohibit them from enrolling their children to alternative learning schools.
Despite the glaring deprivation of education to school-age children in peasant and Lumad villages, the AFP campaigns hard to prevent them from attending schools initiated by private groups and religious institutions. The AFP’s counter-insurgency program is focused not in decimating the NPA through warfare but by interfering and controlling the educational system in the countryside. It is targeting legitimate basic education schools, vilifying teachers and parents who they wrongly accuse as supporters and members of the revolutionary movement.