Monday, March 05, 2007

AFP Deployed Soldiers in Metro Manila's Depressed Areas

The strategic hamleting first used tactics during the Philippine-American War, then against the Huk agrarian rebellion in Central Luzon provinces, the Vietnam War and Gloria Arroyo government counter-insurgency campaign. The deployment of soldiers in the asphalt jungles of Metro Manila is related to counter-insurgency operations by intimidating militant party-list groups and their supporters. Why? Are they considered enemies of the state? The deployment of soldiers in depressed areas to maintain peace and order is a flimsy excuse. Soldiers are not trained to do police works. Peace and order in villages is the responsibility of barangay captains (village chiefs) and tanods (village guards). The barangay , country's smallest political unit may seek help from the mayor and local police to fight criminality. The militarization of Metro Manila may soon spill over in the provinces.

AFP nixes pullout; Comelec gives in

Daily Tribune 03/06/2007
The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) isn’t going to pull out troops it deployed in slum areas all over Metro Manila, insisting that the troops are assigned to these areas merely to maintain peace and order in the community.
The Commission on Elections (Comelec), for its part, said it will not question the presence of the AFP troops deployed in the National Capital Region, if the purpose is “purely military.”
“If an operation is purely military and devoid of political motivation, the Comelec cannot intervene,” Comelec chairman Benjamin Abalos Sr., yesterday told reporters, despite the complaint lodged before it by the leftist Party-list groups, complete with pictures and affidavits stating that the soldiers have been harassing and intimidating the members of the party-list group and instructing the voters there not to vote for the leftist groups, which the military has accused of being the fronts of the communist party of the Philippines.
AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Hermogenes Esperon Jr. yesterday claimed that the presence of the military in Metro Manila has been requested by local government leaders to curb the drug problem in various areas and criminality, insisting that the accusations that the military troops deployed had been ordered to campaign against the leftist party-list groups were false.
But Esperon failed to show the alleged letters of requests from the local executives from 27 barangays.
Abalos seemed to have taken Esperon’s claim as gospel truth, and appeared to be disinterested in getting to the bottom
of things.
It also appears that all the military has to do, during the polls when the AFP gets into the picture, is merely to state that the activities the soldiers are engaged in are purely military and Comelec will not intervene.
The military brass said the AFP has no plan to pull out troops, with Esperon denying the allegations of party list groups on the military’s electioneering for the administration.
AFP spokesman Maj. Gen. Jose Angel Honrado also insisted that the deployment of troops will stay and said there is no order for a pullout. “It (deployment) is not election-related,” he stressed.
But when asked what the deployment was for, the spokesman said: “I don’t want to answer that. Let’s wait for our (AFP chief’s) reply to the Comelec.”
Maj.Gen. Benjamin Dolorfino, chief of AFP-National Capital Region Command said the deployment of soldiers in some areas of Metro Manila is “indirectly” related to counter-insurgency operations and part of a civil-military program to maintain peace and order in communities.
“Yes (the operations of the Armed Forces) are indirectly (related to counter-insurgency) because we are trying to help solve peace and order problems so the people will not go to streets or think of fighting the government,” Dolorfino said.
Dolorfino said the AFP is forging a partnership with the Philippine National Police (PNP) and local governments in maintaining peace and order in problematic communities.
“I think nothing is wrong when we have civil-military operations programs and these are promoting good relations between military and civilians,” he said.
He said the military has received requests to maintain peace and order in areas frequented by activist groups.
The party-list group Gabriela filed a complaint against the military whose troops were said to be campaigning against the group and harassing its supporters in Barangay Commonwealth in Quezon City.
Honrado said the military received formal notice from the Comelec seeking its comment on the deployment, on Monday
Comelec said it may ask the AFP, and in particular, Dolorfino to explain the extent of the military operations.
Abalos over the weekend asked Dolorfino to investigate the presence of military troops in Isla putting Bato and in Delpan all in Tondo and to submit a written report.
But Abalos said he has not received any report from Dolorfino as of yesterday.
Meanwhile, opposition leaders yesterday rebuked Esperon’s mobilization of soldiers to urban poor communities, saying this is a clear plot to harass candidates from militant partylist organizations and prevent from campaigning.
More than the issue of the military’s presence in areas not within their so-called war zones, the legality of the move by the AFP presents a danger, Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel Jr. pointed out the danger as far as legality of the move by the AFP hierarchy.
His counterpart in the House, Minority Leader Francis “Chiz” Escudero, denounced the AFP deployment saying: The threat against opposition candidates on the campaign trail, the presence of soldiers in places where they have no business to be, seen against the backdrop of the continuing extra-judicial executions, create an atmosphere of fear that makes a free, orderly, and fair election impossible.”
Escudero warned the administration against continuing the enforcement of such policy as it might compel the public to resort to violence if the people’s will is frustrated at the polls.
He reminded the administration over the public backlash experienced during the 2004 presidential election, which was a serious blow to country’s democracy when the people refused to accept the results.
“Another fraudulent election will again drive people to the streets, and this time they could very well succeed in their desire to oust the President. To an incensed people, impeachment would cease to be an option,” he said.
He said the mid-term elections had better be clean and honest. Otherwise, he added, the people will resort to extra-constitutional means.
“Do not make the elections a prologue to chaos and disorder that could very well run out of control,” he said, addressing the administration.
Pimentel, principal author of the Local Government Code, emphasized that under existing laws, it is only in the event that the civil agencies that maintain law and order are unable to do so that conceivably the military as military can now make its presence felt in the barangays.
“The barangay officials are the civilian arms of law and order in their barangays. They can assert that authority first by calling on their tanods to do so. If the tanods cannot do the job for one reason or another, the next civilian officials they can ask for help are the mayors of their cities and municipalities.
“The mayors can, then order the police, another civilian agency, to go out to the barangays concerned and maintain law and order there. If the mayors prove unavailable, the barangay officials can always call on the governor and the Sangguniang Panlalawigan concerned to help them out with their problem,” he explained.
He urged barangay captains and their barangay councils all over the country to now assert their right as civilian functionaries to maintain law and order in their barangays.
“They should do so before the nation becomes fully militarized under a President who is a captive of certain generals in the Armed Forces.
“Unless the local government officials are unable to maintain law and order, soldiers should stay in their barracks and wait until they are called upon to help. Or perhaps, they can do construction work,” he added,
Pimentel also said that their unwarranted intrusion into local government domain raises alarm bells that during this election period, they are sent to the barangays to intimidate people into voting for the administration candidates, or, worse, to condition the minds of the people that the law of the gun or martial law is inevitable and that there is nothing we can do about it.
Escudero also asked: What is the Comelec doing about it?,” pointing out that the various militant groups had already raised this issue long before the election period and yet nothing is being done about it either by the Comelec or Malacañang.
He also stressed that the AFP chief of Staff did not even bother to present any petition coming from the community or communities that demanded for the military presence to back his claim that the military acted on the request of the barangay leaders.
As early as the last two months of last year, partylist Gabriela has been sounding its alarm over the presence of military troops in many areas in Quezon City, and yet Malacañang and the AFP ignored this..
The Palace has admitted that it gave AFP the go signal to push through with the deployment of troops in some urban areas in the metropolis, claiming it is only the Palace and AFP’s will to protect civilians from the threat of insurgency and criminality.
But this was immediately dismissed by members of the partylist group Bayan Muna.
Reps. Satur Ocampo and Teodoro Casino belied claims made by Secretary Eduardo Ermita, Esperon. Dolorfino and Col. Bartolome Bacarro that the deployment of the military was for the protection of the people.
“They were dishing out barefaced lies to cover up the government’s dirty war against progressive partylist groups,” they said in a press statement.
It was also untrue, according to the legislators that the deployed military personnel were unarmed.
Aside from that, these military personnel impose curfews, and even threaten leaders and supporters of the partylist group, according to Casiño.
“The deployment began in November last year. This is part and parcel of two AFP documents entitled ‘CPP-NPA-NDF Partylist Operations for 2004 Elections,’ a 51-slide powerpoint presentation, and ‘AFP Onward to Political Warfare Arena,’ authored by Lt. Col. Yogyog-NIWG1. This is an anti-party-list plan to ‘make it hard for progressive partylist groups to campaign and make it easy for AFP partylist allies to campaign,” Casiño further said.
To achieve these aims, these documents pushed for “focus denial operations” in 305 cities and towns tagged as CPP-NPA-NDF strongholds, the division of potential votes by promoting AFP-preferred partylists, and the actual use of AFP and PNP operations.
According to Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye, in order to inform the public well and to avoid confusion, the AFP has to explain more thoroughly the issue of deployment of troops in the slum areas in the metropolis.
The Palace spokesman, however, became clueless and almost speechless when pressed if President Arroyo was aware of Esperon’s order or if proper consultation between the Palace and the AFP on the matter took place.
He appeared clueless and fell back on saying it will be the AFP that will do the explaining insread.
Presidential Adviser on Political Affairs Gabriel Claudio defended the AFP saying that its only objective is to protect the communities from the threat of insurgency and criminality. With Gina Peralta-Elorde, Angie M. Rosales, Dona Policar and Marie A. Surbano.

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