BY PET MELLIZA/ THE BEEKEEPER
Under internal security strategy of the unlamented Macapagal-Arroyo administration, over 1,000 persons were summarily executed and another 200 plus were abducted.
Oplan Bantay Laya (OBL) I and II sought to crush the armed resistance mainly of the CPP-NPA-NDF and Moro Islamic Liberation Front – Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (MILF-BIAF) but it sideswiped unarmed civilians in the process from 2001 to 2010. The victims are unable to fight back given their being unarmed, age and physical conditions.
Pardon this repetition, the more than 1,000 victims of extrajudicial killings and 200 of enforced disappearances were mostly militant activists, human rights advocates, environmentalists to include members of the press, lawyers, judges, physicians, teachers and students though the bulk came from the workers and peasants. Their only fault was their opposition to government policies and programs that favored only a handful.
Students protesting budget slash for education, are they “enemies of the state” as the military want us to believe?
Farmers demanding land and an end to the deluge of smuggled or imported farm products, does that warrant them to be treated as NPA guerillas and therefore, suppressed by military force?
These are questions that pop into our mind as the local press headlines an activist scores the military for plotting against her life and limb.
Cynthia Deduro, a grandmother and too old and weak to carry a gun, much less foray into the hills of Panay Island, is now jittery as the Army has tagged her a regional cadre of the NPA operating the provinces of Iloilo, Capiz, Aklan, Antique and Guimaras.
Deduro chairs the Panay-Guimaras Indigenous People’s Network (PGIPNet) but the Army tags her instead as an insurgent.
We have reason to be concerned. If we may recall, on April 12, 2007, a van heading to Iloilo City was overtaken by another vehicle at Botong-Cabanbanan, Oton, Iloilo. Armed men emerged from the overtaking car, guns drawn. One of the attackers shot the driver, Jose Ely Garachico, hitting him in the neck.
Garachico survived. His two companions, however, were unlucky. Maria Luisa Posa-Dominado and Nilo Arado were pulled out from the front seat and dumped into the attackers’ van.
Nothing has been heard of the two since the vehicle sped away to the direction of Iloilo City.
The Army denied involvement in the abduction of the two activists. Their spokesman even peddled the convoluted idea that they were “arrested” by the NPA themselves for misappropriating funds of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).
However, such denial and disinformation is hardly convincing. Only the military has the motive to eliminate the two. Nobody else but only the Army went into systematic vilification campaign linking militant organizations and activists to the armed opposition.
Posa-Dominado used to be the spokesperson of the Samahan ng mga Ex-detainees Laban sa Detensyon at para sa Amenstiya (SELDA-Panay) while Arado belongs to the farmers alliance PAMANGGAS – Panay/Guimaras. The latter is also the second nominee of the partylist Kilusang ng mga Magbubukid sa Pilipinas (KMP).
Weeks and months before the assault on Posa-Dominado and Arado, the military had been tagging them as “communist-terrorists” and the organizations they represented as “communist fronts”.
We are supposed to be happy now with the unlamented Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo now arrested for election sabotage. We are supposed to be ecstatic that P-Noy and his Matuwid na Landas now reign in this unfortunate land.
However, it’s too early yet to sing hallelujahs. The bloody Bantay Laya I and II continues to be implemented today. The same counter-insurgency strategy is being pushed by the government. It has been merely renamed “Oplan Bayanihan” that, at first glance, makes it appear that the government has abandoned the militarist solution in favor of the nice sounding catchword “peace and development”.
The threat on the life and limb of Cynthia Deduro is real and so is the predicament of other similarly situated individuals and groups working for the upliftment of the underprivileged like what Ms. Deduro and PGIPNet do now – assert the rights of the indigenous Tumandoks of Panay who lost their ancestral land when the central highlands of Panay were declared military reservation in 1961.
The Tumandoks further face the threat of multinationals seeking to mine their mineral wealth in their ancestral domain.