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Civilian Armed Force Geographical Unit

Steeled by Decades of Struggle, the Negrenses Keep the Revolutionary Fire Ablaze

in Mainstream
by Iliya Makalipay

Tears were shed copiously. There was mourning all around as the number of dead bodies in Negros Island continued to rise. And there was justified rage—because these were not mere numbers or bodies.

They were peasants, local government executives, educators, human rights defenders, lawyers. There was even a one-year-old baby. All of them were victims of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), the Philippine National Police (PNP), and the Duterte Death Squads (DDS).

Stupid as it has shown up itself to be, the tyrannical regime wasted no time in accusing the New People’s Army (NPA) of killing those whom it had tagged as NPA members and sympathizers.

Peasant advocate groups have reported 87 killed from 2017 to mid-August 2019. Forty of the victims were mercilessly slain after Duterte’s Memorandum Circular 32 took effect on November 22, 2018: it ordered more troop deployments in Negros, in the Samar provinces, and in the Bicol region purportedly to “suppress lawless violence.” A month after, in consonance with Memo Circular 32, state security forces launched Oplan Sauron in Negros Island.

Currently, at least 11 regular and special battalions of the AFP and PNP operate in the island, supported by paramilitary groups such as the CAFGU (Civilian Armed Force Geographical Unit) and the RPA-ABB (Revolutionary Proletarian Army-Alex Boncayao Brigade). At the height of the killings in July-August 2019, the PNP deployed 300 more members of its Special Forces, further escalating the tension and the abuses.

To justify the massive deployment and brutal military campaign, Col. Benedict Arevalo admitted to media that what was initially passed off as tokhang (“drug war”) operations were actually counterinsurgency actions.

The AFP assumes that the central part of Negros, where most of the killings happened, is used by the NPA as “highway” to easily reach both sides of Negros Island—Occidental and Oriental.

“The rebels are trying to create a base somewhere in the boundaries because it’s very important for them to connect and control both islands. It’s like grabbing Negros by the neck,” a news report quoted Arevalo, commanding officer of the 303rd Infantry Brigade-Philippine Army.

In July 30, the Provincial Task Force to end local communist armed conflict was formed in Negros Oriental following Malacanang’s issuance of Executive Order 70, which created the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), headed by President Duterte himself. The move is part of the “whole-of-nation approach” the regime is using to create public perception that its counterinsurgency operations involve the participation of the entire government, civil society, and the civilian population.

Still and all, the victims of these police and military operations in Negros were unarmed civilians.

PERENNIAL MILITARY TARGET

This is not the first time state forces deployed hundreds of troops in the island— intended to decimate the NPA and “wipe out” its revolutionary base there. In fact, every president—from Marcos to Duterte—has invariably aimed, by the end of his/her term, to defeat the New People’s Army and destroy its revolutionary mass base.

During the Marcos dictatorship, Negros was depicted as a “social volcano” waiting to explode. Almost 40 years later, it has remained so because there was never any palpable change in the economic system and the deplorable lives of the poor people. As feudal and semifeudal relations in the haciendas remain and exploitation is stepped up, so is the validity of sustained armed struggle upheld.

In the last few months of the dictatorship, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) pointed out Marcos’s inability to address the sugar crisis and its consequent labor unrest and the military’s failure to contain the rebellion that has swept the island because of extreme poverty. The CIA report, dated May 1985, had been declassified and sanitized and was approved for release in 2011.

The report said: “We judge that later this year (1985), Negros may become, after Mindanao, the second politically important island in the archipelago where Communist control rivals that of the government.”

It added: “Despite the trouble looming on Negros, President Marcos shows no inclination to improve the counterinsurgency effort by bolstering the military or dismantling the sugar-marketing empire of his political ally, Roberto Benedicto. … Government efforts that are taken to ease the plight of the sugar workers are largely cosmetic.”

The “fall of Negros”, the report concluded, “would provide an important psychological defeat for the government and further depress morale in the armed forces. It would also confirm to the Communist Party that its long-term strategy is on the mark.”

Now under the sixth post-Marcos president, feudal relations, the centuries-old hacienda system, landlessness, and agrarian unrest are still prevalent. Adding to these social and economic ills are large-scale mining companies that prey on the island’s mineral resources and degrade its environment.

More than half of the country’s sugar mill and plantation workers are in Negros, earning an average daily income of Php 50-67, a far cry from the mandated minimum wage of Php 300. The glaring reality is farmers go hungry every day, both before and after the much-dreaded tiempo muerto, the idle period between sugarcane harvests.

There is widespread landlessness despite the so-called agrarian reform programs implemented by past administrations. Negros has still at least 600,000 hectares of lands that have escaped distribution under the largely-failed Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) started by the Cory Aquino government in 1988.

Continued exploitation and oppression and non-implementation of genuine agrarian reform and rural development have been surefire stimuli for resistance—both armed and unarmed. It is for this reason that all attempts by the successive governments to defeat the revolutionary forces have ended in failure.

The Philippine government may have somehow identified the causes of the protracted armed conflict, but it has persistently pursued the wrong solution—the militarist solution of trying to eradicate the symptom—instead of seeking to resolve the root causes.

SERIES OF FAILED ‘COUNTERINSURGENCY’ OPLANS

Interviews with several villagers in Negros Oriental revealed two military operational plans (Oplans) etched deeply in their collective memory: Oplan Thunderbolt under the Cory Aquino regime and Oplan Bantay Laya of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Decades from now, they would remember too the brutality of the military operations under the Duterte regime’s Oplan Kapayapaan/Kapanatagan.

Despite or because of martial law, Marcos failed. And what the Marcos dictatorship failed to attain, the succeeding “restoration-of-democracy” government of Cory Aquino tried to finish—by using the very same corrupt and abusive state security forces that Marcos had fully harnessed and coddled.

As Cory Aquino wielded her “sword of war” through Oplan Lambat-Bitag I and II, Negros became a “pilot area”. A fact-finding report in 1988, titled “Mountain Tempest”, quoted the government as claiming that “the deployment of more troops and the use of more sophisticated weapons…can wipe out insurgency by 1992.” Essentially, Cory Aquino’s counterinsurgency program was derived from America’s “low-intensity-conflict” strategy which, at the time, was also being implemented in Latin America, with incalculable consequences in terms of countless killings and massive-scale human rights violations.

Rev. Romeo Empestan, in his book “From the Struggles of the People and the Church of the Poor in Negros in the 70s to 90s,” recalled that there were four simultaneous localized Oplans implemented during this period: Thunderbolt, Kahilwayan (freedom), Habagat (south winds), and Amihan (north winds). Oplan Thunderbolt would become the most notorious of the four.

Oplan Thunderbolt resulted in more than 30,000 (some reports cited as high as 100,000) evacuees in seven relocation sites. Most of the evacuees were from the now-familiar town of Sta. Catalina and Guihulngan City, in Negros Oriental, where the spate of killings under Duterte is happening. The late outspoken and courageous Bishop of Bacolod City, Antonio Fortich, said the mass dislocation of civilians at the time was “the biggest evacuation in one place in the country since World War II.”

Aside from the regular companies of the Philippine Constabulary (PC), units of the Scout Rangers, Airborne, were used in the counterinsurgency campaigns, along with vigilante groups such as Pulahan (red), Ituman (black), Putian (white), Way Sapatos (literally, no shoes) and the notorious Alsa Masa (Rise up, masses) that arose in Davao City. Private armies of landlords, hiding under the cloak of Philippine Constabulary Forward Command (PCFC) were also employed in military operations.

Upland farmers in Sta. Catalina town recalled seeing tora-tora planes used in bombing their communities, forest areas, and rivers suspected as NPA encampments. Fr. Empestan also mentioned bombings using helicopter gunships, F5 jet fighters, and howitzers. The communities were eventually declared “no man’s land”, a common practice in those days where anyone on sight was shot at by soldiers. At least seven incidents of massacre were recorded. There were burning of houses and parish churches, arrests, ‘salvaging’ (a term used to refer to what is now known as extrajudicial killings), and disappearances.

In a September 1, 2018 statement, Juanito Magbanua, spokesperson of the Apolinario Gatmaitan Command of the NPA Regional Command, described the current military operations in Negros since early 2018 as reminiscent of Oplan Thunderbolt in the late 80’s—the evacuations, bombings, and the destruction of Negros’ virgin forests.

Cory Aquino’s term ended in 1992 with the revolutionary movement surviving the military assaults. Thus, her successor Fidel Ramos—also the engineer behind her two Oplans—only had to continue the same counterinsurgency program Oplan Lambat Bitag III and IV. Oplan Flush Out was its localized version in Negros. It was during Ramos’ term, however, when the government first recognized the need to combine a “non-militarist” solution to the armed conflict—the pursuance of the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations, which produced positive results.

A decade later, in 2008, a Negros version of Gloria Arroyo’s nationwide Oplan Bantay Laya (OBL) I and II, the Oplan Cut Wedge, attempted yet again to “cut/stop the ability of the NPA to hop from one island to another.” The objective was the same; the mode of military operation was similar.

At least four infantry battalions of the Philippine Army were deployed in Negros, plus a battalion of the Special Elite forces of the Scout Ranger, two division-level reconnaissance companies, plus two companies supervising more than 2,000 CAFGU paramilitary recruits. The fanatic groups such as Pulahan, Ituman, etc. were replaced by two platoons of RPA-ABB (Revolutionary Proletarian Army-Alex Buncayao Brigade). A breakaway group from the NPA in the 1990s, the RPA-ABB (Tabara-Paduano group) has morphed into a paramilitary group, recently “demobilized” but has vowed to fully cooperate with the Duterte regime. At the start, it posed itself as a revolutionary group.

Simultaneous deployment of military units in a community, akin to Oplan Sauron, was already employed during OBL’s implementation.

In Barangay Guihulngan for example, almost two battalions of Philippine Army were deployed. In another village, some 130 troops were stationed for six months, with a division-level reconnaissance unit on standby in a nearby town.

People were interrogated, threatened and charged with trumped-up cases, the latter as part of the “legal offensive” of the Arroyo regime against its perceived enemies. There was massive recruitment of people to join the Barangay Defense System (BDS). Parallel formations were created in an attempt to draw in those who were members of progressive organizations.

Arroyo’s OBL was patterned after the U.S. 2009 Counterinsurgency Guide that has formally included the “whole-of-nation, whole-of-people” strategy purportedly to complement combat operations. The “whole-of-nation” approach would become the thread in the subsequent Oplans up to the Duterte regime’s Oplan Kapayapaan (Peace)/ Kapanatagan (peace/tranquility).

A similar counterinsurgency operation was in place when B.S. Aquino III assumed the presidency in 2010. As it was still patterned after the US Guide, massive troop deployment was again employed in the island. The revolutionary forces counted up to 30 combat companies in Negros.

But while Aquino continued OBL, the regime highlighted the “shift” to “whole-of-nation” approach to conjure an image of a nation united to battle “insurgency”, even calling it Oplan Bayanihan (a collective endeavor Filipinos are known for) and complemented it with a task force composed of so-called civil society stakeholders.

Nada. What was fervently targeted has never been achieved by any of these Oplans. Obviously, every Oplan has only brought more killings and numerous human rights violations.

Still, the current government insists on the same strategy that has failed over five decades under a dictatorship and five successive presidents.

THE MASSES PROPEL THE REVOLUTION

The Philippine government chose to remain blind and deaf through time, ignoring the fact that the strength of the revolutionary forces in Negros, and elsewhere in the country, comes from the exploited and oppressed poor, especially the peasants and workers. It is their best interest that the national democratic revolution— the key democratic content of which is agrarian revolution— uppermost fights for.

It is thus not surprising that the “poor but struggling masses of Negros” propels the revolution.

The masses played a vital role in the recovery and rebuilding of the CPP and the NPA in Negros in the 1990s. “(They) did not allow us to give up and encouraged us to rebuild,” recalled Frank Fernandez, detained peace consultant of the National Democratic Front (NDFP). In an article published by Kodao productions on July 8, 2019, Fernandez recalled, “There was almost no NPA left in Negros in 1994.”

The reason was not because the government’s counterinsurgency’program suceeded but because of the internal weaknesses of the CPP-NPA leadership in the area at the time. Fernandez explained that the movement diverted from the correct line and strategy in the conduct of the people’s war.

(That period of disorientation resulted in the breakaway of former members and led to the formation of the RPA-ABB. In 2000 said group engaged in pseudo-peace talks and signed a peace agreement with the Estrada government in exchange for a hefty amount of money. It continued to deteriorate into a paramilitary group, having been involved in numerous cases of extrajudicial killings, victimizing farmers. It has recently signed another ‘peace agreement’ with the Duterte regime and got another Php 500 million purportedly for social services programs.)

Reaffirming the correct ideological, political and organizational line, the CPP-NPA in Negros has since then fully recovered, with the unstinting support of the masses.

As Frank Fernandez said, “It’s time to repay the masses”.

PEASANT WAR, PEASANT ARMY

Repaying the masses comes in three main forms—implementing agrarian revolution, establishing local organs of political power, and pushing forward the armed struggle.

Juanito Magbanua, the Apolinario Gatmaitan Command spokesperson, cited the successful 17 armed actions of the NPA in Negros in the first eight months of 2018 as proofs of the “NPA’s increasing capability in launching armed struggle that is integrated with agrarian revolution and base building.”

As early as 2016, the Pambansang Kalipunan ng mga Magsasaka (PKM or the National Federation of Peasants) revealed that the revolutionary movement in Negros and Central Visayas have confiscated some 2,000 hectares of land, which benefitted at least a thousand farmers. The confiscation and distribution of lands, mostly idle and abandoned, are part of the agrarian revolution being implemented by the NPA with the PKM.

Comprehensive military-politico training of red commanders and fighters were launched to improve their “fighting skill, political capability, combat discipline, and revolutionary militance,” according to Magbanua. Majority of the trainees were peasants while 15 percent came from the petty-bourgeoisie.

Recognizing the importance of Negros island in the overall development of people’s war, Magbanua said the armed revolutionary movement in Negros must “overcome its weaknesses and rectify its errors in order to help frustrate the US-Duterte regime’s Oplan Kapayapaan and contribute in the national development of the strategic defensive of the people’s war towards a new and higher stage.”

The last time the island command conducted a training was in 2008 when the AFP implemented Oplan Bantay Laya 2 and shortly after, Oplan Bayanihan.

“The people’s army in the island had to make do with politico-military crash courses in the face of sustained search-and-destroy operations of the enemy until 2013, while prioritizing rebuilding work of the revolutionary mass base thereafter,” Magbanua explained.

At the same time, he added, punitive actions against abusive state forces and criminal elements have been meted out.

In the last six months of 2018, the NPA punished 14 landgrabbers, criminal elements, and intelligence assets of the 303rd Brigade responsible for human rights abuses against peasants, including the killing of activists in the legal organizations. These punitive actions have reduced the AFP/PNP’s capability to “inflict further harm upon the people’s lives, rights, and livelihood within and outside the guerrilla areas in the island,” Magbanua said.

Meantime, Dionesio Magbuelas, spokesperson of the NPA Central Negros-Mt. Cansermon Command, reported that Red fighter burned down some 120 million-peso worth of heavy equipment owned by a mining company. The action, he said, was a punishment meted on the firm for the destruction it had caused on the environment and sources of the people’s livelihood in Ayungon, Negros Oriental.

At the height of the attacks against the masses in Negros, the CPP-NPA central leadership issued a call for the NPA to defend the people of Negros. Magbanua claimed the punitive actions were “long overdue” because killings of unarmed civilians continued to escalate.

The CPP has denounced the spate of killings and numerous human rights abuses against civilians as acts of cowardice. State security forces, it noted, turned their guns against unarmed civilians in retaliation and to cover up for their failure to eliminate the revolutionary forces in the region.

Tempered in fighting one armed counter-revolutionary campaign after another—from the Marcos-era martial rule, through Operation Thunderbolt, and the more recent Oplan Bayanihan that deployed at least 30 combat companies in the island—the NPA in Negros has vowed unwaveringly to defend the masses against the intensifying militarization and fascist attacks of the Duterte regime. ###

#PeasantMonth
#ServeThePeople
#JoinTheNPA

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RISE UP FOR COUNTRY AND DISSENT (Pt. 2 of 2)

in Mainstream

by Pat Gambao

Dissent in the military

The debased culture and unscrupulous practices in the military institution of the reactionary government have caused demoralization and dissent among its constituents. These have awakened their consciousness and revitalized their ideals.

Political patronage, an abomination passed on to the Filipinos by our Spanish and American colonizers, is an enduring feature of the AFP and PNP. The breaking away of then Defense Secretary Juan Ponce Enrile and Constabulary Chief Fidel Ramos from the DND-AFP command was in resentment of the favor and privileges accorded to General Fabian Ver by Pres. Marcos. The fray ignited the 1986 EDSA People Power Uprising.

The defection of bemedalled Brig. General Raymundo Jarque, the highest-ranking AFP officer who joined the New People’s Army (NPA), was in extreme disgust of the corruption in the military and then President Ramos’s accommodation of his allies. Jarque displeased the well-connected Pena family in Negros over a land dispute. This put him in a bad light as the court favoured Pena and turned the table on Jarque who was falsely charged with stealing prawns from Pena’s farm and ambushing the judge.

Amidst the struggling masses, Jarque realized that his greatest mistake was to have rendered service to the greedy and powerful who exploits and oppresses the poor. Having led the implementation of the bloody Oplan Thunderbolt in Negros in 1989-1990, he manifested his sincere repentance by going to the people, crying as he asked for forgiveness. Weeks after Jarque’s defection, a number of CAFGU (Civilian Armed Force Geographical Unit) members from Northern Negros fled with their weapons and joined the NPA.

Corruption is deeply entrenched in the reactionary ruling system. It is endemic and at its worst in the military establishment because of the latter’s authoritarian nature and armed supremacy. Corruption in the military is manifested in the procurement process, in bribes extracted from foreign and local business and industrial corporations, through involvement in smuggling, in illegal drugs, and in the sale of arms and military materials to rebel groups.

Juggling and malversation of funds is just as common. Corruption plagues the top hierarchy of the institution and any dissent or exposé from below is met with drastic if not fatal repercussion.

Young Philippine Navy Ensign Philip Pestaño was found dead with a single bullet wound in the head inside his cabin after he discovered the loading of logs and drugs in the navy ship. Navy officials dismissed the case as suicide although autopsy results showed otherwise.

Lt. Jessica Chavez, platoon leader of the 191st Military Police Battalion stationed in Fort Bonifacio, was being used by her superiors in gunrunning and other criminal activities. She had planned to expose the corruption before leaving the service but she was summarily killed before she could do so. Again, the AFP declared her death as suicide.

The Oakwood mutiny in 2003 by 300 soldiers from the Philippine Army, Navy and Air Force, including 70 junior officers, was an expression of their grievance and dissent over the gross corruption in the military and the fascist regime of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, which she wanted to perpetuate. The mutineers declared withdrawal of support from the chain of command and demanded Arroyo’s resignation.

However, because it lacked strong support from a people’s movement as the mutineers relied on spent politicians, the Oakwood mutiny, as well as the succeeding Peninsula Siege, quickly dissipated.

The brazen corruption is incessant and sickening. Imagine allocating PhP50 million from AFP funds as send-off gifts to retiring generals, over and above their legal retirement pay. Imagine the PNP police director for comptrollership being questioned by Russian customs office for carrying excessive amount of cash (105,000 Euros or PhP6.9 million). The general was with an 8-member PNP delegation that attended the International Police (Interpol) Assembly in St. Petersburg in Moscow in 2008.

The most contemptuous scam committed by the military top brass was the diversion of the funds of the AFP Retirement and Separation Benefits System (AFP-RSBS) for their vested interest. The funds came from the compulsory collection of five percent of every soldier’s monthly salary. The government continued to pay the pension and separation benefits of soldiers.

Meantime, the RSBS funds and proceeds from its investments were pocketed by the AFP officials. Although most investments incurred losses, the officers still benefited from brokering the deals and from substantial allowances they received, charged to the funds.

The Mamasapano incident in Maguindanao, on January 25, 2015, claimed the lives of 44 members of the PNP’s elite Special Action Force (SAF). Without notifying or coordinating with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the SAF conducted Operation Exodus against a US-tagged “terrorist” adversary, the Malaysian bomb-maker Marwan or Zulkifli Abhir, (also known as Abdul Basit Ulman). Marwan was killed, but the MILF and Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighter (BIFF) bivouacked in the area were alerted by the firefight. They ambushed the SAF members as they were withdrawing, resulting in the latter’s massacre.

Operation Exodus was a joint operation with the US Army. However, the SAF was left alone in the implementation, while US authorities and Filipino political leaders and generals monitored the incident from afar through telecast.

It was utterly bad that for the protection of foreign (US) interest and the local ruling class the lives of members of an expensively-trained elite police force were unnecessarily sacrificed. The Mamasapano incident was no different from how soldiers are sent to senseless violent battles and pitted against their own class.

This is a wakeup call for the military minions of the ruling class. ##

RISE UP FOR COUNTRY AND PEOPLE (Pt. 1 of 2)
Revolution strikes chords in the state military

#ServeThePeople
#CherishThePeoplesArmy

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Duterte’s “surrender” program is a scam

in Countercurrent
by Iliya Makalipay

Alde “Butsoy” Salusad is a leader of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP)-backed paramilitary group New Indigenous People’s Army for Reform (NIPAR). He is a murderer—the killer of anti-mining activist Datu Jimmy Liguyon—with two warrants of arrests on him that remain unserved by the Bukidnon Philippine National Police because he has been coddled by the AFP since 2012.

In August 11, 2017, five years after he killed Liguyon, Salusad was presented by the AFP as “NPA surrenderee” and was awarded Php100,000 in cash. Then in March 2018, the military included Salusad in the list of more than 600 names and aliases of alleged members of the CPP and the NPA in a petition for proscription filed at a Manila regional trial court.

Filed by the Department of Justice (DoJ) in compliance with the Human Security Act of 2007 (the Philippine anti-terrorism law), the petition seeks to declare the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the New People’s Army (NPA) as terrorist organizations. The court initially ordered the names of four individuals, who had challenged their inclusion in the petition, excluded for lack of evidence that they were officers or members of the CPP and the NPA. After others similarly questioned their inclusion, the DoJ revised the petition by dropping the long list.

The charade about Alde Salusad is among the many ways the Duterte regime tries to cover up its failure to defeat the revolutionary movement led by the CPP-NPA and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), through vicious military operations launched in areas they consider as NPA guerrilla fronts.

Elsewhere in Mindanao, where martial law has been imposed for two years now, farmers and indigenous people—individually or collectively—have become targets of the fake/forced surrender campaign of the AFP. The trend is also noticeable in other parts of the country as the AFP keeps resetting its target date for “neutralizing” the armed revolutionary forces.

Will the real NPA surrenderees stand up?

Interviewed by Liberation, Julieta, a woman community leader from Bukidnon, revealed that one AFP battalion commander had summoned community leaders listed as “NPA terrorist supporters” from 31 barangays for a three-day “peace building seminar”. Each barangay had 10 names on the list. Julieta and her husband were among those listed from their village.

While her husband attended the event, she refused to go, declaring: “I am not a terrorist. I am a leader who defends our ancestral territory. We organize to protect our lands, we attend rallies so our voice could be heard, and to seek justice for those who were killed by the military and paramilitary groups.”

She quoted those who attended the seminar as complaining that “the military refused to answer our questions on how to protect our ancestral lands from the land grabbers.” Instead, they said, the military offered the more than 1,000 suspected “NPA terrorist sypathizers” seed money to grow mushrooms, ginger, coconut, and coffee trees. The seminar was in May 2018. As of October, not one of those who attended was given any seed money.

What alarmed the participants during those three days were the individual “interviews” conducted among them, which largely dealt with why they supported the NPA. At the end of the seminar, the participants were made to sign a document stating they would no longer participate in rallies. Ironically, they were herded to a rally immediately after the signing, and ordered to carry anti-NPA placards.

In the community, the soldiers have continued to convince the youth to join the military service, “so you will earn money.” They also egged on the community members, especially the youth, to search for firearms and turn them over to the military in exchange for money. Julieta said pictures of guns were distributed among them with corresponding price tags: AK-47 for Php 75,000 and handguns, Php 35,000. There were other guns priced at Php 65,000 and Php 45,000, but Julieta could not remember what sort of firearms they were. “They are teaching us to lie,” said Julieta, obviously irked by the military’s modus operandi.

There was a time when goons of the plantation owner who occupy their ancestral lands harassed them. Julieta said these belonged to the group of goons that killed a tribe member. The community reported the incident to the soldiers deployed in the area. Six goons were “arrested” but were brought to the military headquarters instead of the police station. Later, the six men were presented as “NPA surrenderees”.

For a few months after the “seminar”, fear and apprehension reigned among the community members. The specter of the Lianga massacre, where two indigenous leaders and one school executive were killed, always came back into their minds. After four months, however, they were again joining rallies.

“We are insulted by how the military treats us,” declared Julieta. “The military arbitrarily stops children to ask them if there are armed men in the community. When children pointed to the goons and security guards of the plantation, the soldiers would tell them ‘gahi na kaayo ka’ (you have been toughened).”

Similar stories have been recorded and made public by an international fact-finding mission held in Mindanao early last year. Likewise, the human rights alliance Karapatan reported more than 600 cases of forced/fake surrender since the start of the Duterte administration in July 2016 to March 2018.

A victim of forced surrender in Northern Mindanao recounted, “From morning, noon, until night, the 29th Infantry Division [went] around the community forcing us to surrender. I did not go with them because I am not an NPA. That night they strafed our house.” Other communities were threatened with bombing or were actually bombed.

Worn-out tactics of deception and coercion

In early 2018, the AFP claimed about 4,000 people to be “NPA surrenderees.” By the end of the year, the number “surrenderees” varied, from a total of almost 8,000 to 11,000. The AFP cited those numbers, whereas it had previously claimed that the NPA had already been reduced to 3,000. Embarassed, the AFP has interchangeably called the “surrenderees” as NPA members, sympathizers, mass base or militia members.

It matters not for the military whether the line between unarmed civilians and NPA red fighters is blurred. In fact, they have arbitrarily removed the distinction. The point, for them, is to picture to the public a weakening revolutionary movement. But, one thing is certain—almost all of the so-called surrenderees who were herded in public venues and presented to the media were victims of threat, coercion, and deception. Most often, the “surrenderees” are later forced into joining paramilitary groups such as the Civilian Armed Force Geographical Unit (CAFGU) and other similar armed auxiliary groups.

As practiced in the past regimes, the military conduct “house-to-house visits” and “surveys”. They circulate a “wanted list” of people in the community and summon them to military headquarters to “clear their names”. During interrogation, the military try to sow disunity among the community members by telling the “accused” person that his neighbor had ratted on him. But many times, people were simply rounded-up and forced to attend “surrender ceremonies”. At the end of each ceremony or event, all those who attended were tricked to sign blank documents that would later be presented as “proofs of surrender”.

Government agencies are also used to deceive other victims. In Binalbagan, Negros Occidental, some 60 farmers were supposed to attend a gathering called by the Department of Agrarian Reform to discuss land distribution but were later presented as NPA surrenderees. Others were compelled to “cooperate” because of threats of arrests, detention, or cancellation of their benefits from the Pantawid Pamilya Pilipino Program or 4Ps.

Aside from the unarmed civilians, the AFP also hunts down former commanders and members of the NPA who had returned to civilian life. They too were coerced to “surrender”.

And there are the posers. Alde Salusad is a poser. And so were the 16 members of the Magahat-Bagani paramilitary group of Calpit Egua that was responsible for the massacre of school principal Emerito Samarca and Lumad leaders Dionel Campos and Juvello Sinzo in Lianga, Surigao del Sur in 2015. Like Salusad’s NIPAR, the Magahat-Bagani group is backed by the AFP, in this case the 4th Infantry Division.

The AFP used these posers for propaganda against the revolutionary movement and also in the AFP’s psywar cum money-making venture called E-CLIP or the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program.

There’s money in (psy)war

The E-CLIP now embodies the Duterte regime’s campaign to induce the members of the NPA to surrender—and one of the identified core projects in the “12 pillars of the whole-of-nation” approach to end the “communist insurgency”.

See Editorial

Along with the “localized peace talks”, the government pushes E-CLIP as part of the psywar operations to deodorize the government’s bloody “counterinsurgency” program which, since the time of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has been patterned after the 2009 United State’s Counterinsurgency (COIN). The COIN follows the the triad operations combining psywar and intelligence gathering with combat operations.

As the AFP launches sustained brutal military operations, the E-CLIP, supposedly one of the civilian components of the operation, complements the campaign against the NPA. It aims to coopt NPA members into surrender. Thus, the offer of livelihood programs, medical insurance coverage for one year through the PhilHealth, housing, safety and security, and other “amenities”. A portion of the budget is used to give gifts and bribes to the families of NPA members so they may, in turn, convince the NPA member in their family to surrender. Each “NPA surrenderee” supposedly gets Php 65,000 cash for assistance.

See E-CLIP Briefer

Granting there had been 8,000 to 11,000 “surrenderees” by the end of 2018, the government would have spent a total of Php 520 million to Php 715 million. Since there has never been many real surrenderees as the military would want the public to believe, the budget allocation for the program logically ends up in the pockets of military officers and their cohorts.

Getting nowhere

Assuming the E-CLIP and other psywar tactics succeed in attracting members of the revolutionary movement to surrender, this, in all certainty, is but temporary. Why? Because it does not get into the root causes of the armed conflict.

Oppression, exploitation, and social injustices breed revolutionaries who will pursue a free and democratic society. Thus, there will always be one, or two, a hundred, and then thousands and hundreds of thousands who will surely take up arms for their national and democratic interests. Until then, the reactionary government and its killing machine will just have to content themselves with unsustainable cheap gimmicks that are only meant to please their egos—their fascist egos.

On the ground, for every defeat of an AFP unit inflicted by the NPA, the AFP gets back at the civilians. Every time they can’t find the NPA members, they vent their ire on the civilians. An eight-year old Lumad child who was witness to military abuses and atrocities in their community described the soldiers as “pula ang nawong sa kasuko kung mga Lumad ang kaatubang pero luspad na kung makakita na ug NPA (their faces turn red in anger when in front of the Lumad but become ashen pale when they face the NPA).”

The regime continues to be on the losing end as it opts to engage in its useless war against the revolutionary movement and the masses, resorts to dirty tactics, and evades peace negotiations that would tackle the issues of why, in the first place, there is an ongoing war in the Philippines.

 

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