Militant groups are “not legitimate targets” for the miltiary – Colonel


Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews
Saturday, 06 December 2008 05:21
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TAGUM CITY (MindaNews/05 December) – Militant groups like Karapatan and Bayan Muna are “legal fronts” of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) but are “not legitimate targets” for the military because “the legitimate targets for the military are armed groups,” the commander of the 1001st Infantry Brigade said.

“Even if you claim to be NPA but we do not have any warrant (for your arrest) and you do not have arms, we cannot just arrest you,” Col. Allan Luga said in an interview Monday evening.

“You say some legal organization are communist fronts?” asked Bristish reporter Alan Davis of the Institute of War and Peace Reporting, a partner, along with MindaNews, National Union of Journalists of the Philippines and Center for Community Journalism and Developmen, in the Philippine Human Rights Reporting Project.

“Yes. Karapatan and Bayan Muna. But this is not from me. This is what Joema Sison said, that they are legal fronts of the CPP-NPA,” Luga said.
“And so the military believes those in Bayan Muna and Karapan are fronts?” Davis asked.

“Yes. The only thing is they keep on denying it but everyone knows about it,” Luga said.

But when Davis asked if the military sees militants as legitimate targets, Luga quickly replied, “No. They are not. The legitimate targets for the military are armed groups.”

Luga was asked these questions in relation to extrajudicial killings mostly in his area of command, including the November 6 killing of Bayan Muna cluster coordinator Danilo Cualbar and the Nov. 10 killing of Bayan Muna barangay coordinator Rolando Antolijao in Kapalong town.

Joel Virador, Bayan Muna executive vice president, told MindaNews that Sison “never mentioned that Karapatan and Bayan Muna are legal fronts of CPP-NPA-NDF.”

“Until now, the military cannot produce evidences that Joma said it. However, leaders, members and sympathizers of Karapatan, Bayan Muna and other progressive organizations are being victimized by the military as part of its Oplan Bantay Laya 2, a counter-insurgency plan. More than 900 people (have been) killed and more than a hundred missing. Col. Luga is a liar,” Virador said.

He acknowledged Luga’s observation that he has been frequenting Compostela Valley. In Cebuano, he said, “it is true because I always follow-up on the cases of our coordinators there who were killed and make arrangements for their wake and burial.”

In Davao City, Mayor Rodrigo Duterte told reporters earlier this week that he would ask the government intelligence community to determine if government security forces were involved and, if they are, to ask them to stop the killings.

Five leaders of militant groups in the region have been killed since May this year, three of them this month.

Celso Pojas, secretary-general of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas in Southern Mindanao was killed on May 15 in Davao City; Roel Dotarot, Bayan Muna coordinator in Compostela Valley on August 15 in Monkayo , Compostela Valley; Danilo Cualbar, cluster coordinator of Bayan Muna in Compostela, Compostela Valley, on November 6 in Crossing Osmeña, Compostela town; Rolando Antolijao, barangay coordinator of Bayan Muna in Kapalong, on November 10 in the same town; and Vicente Paglinawan, vice president for Mindanao of the Pambansang Kilusan ng mga Samahang Magsasaka on November 22 in Malabog.

Five days before Cualbar was killed, he told his wife Aurelia, that while on his way home riding a motorcycle at around 5:30 p.m., he overheard a soldier ask the Cafgu detachment near their house, “Kana, mao na siya” (That one, is he the one?), the soldier reportedly asked the Cafgu to which the latter replied yes.

Cualbar was killed around 5 p.m. at Purok Ocho, Crossing Osmena, on November 6, while on his way home from the market.

A friend’s son who was riding his motorcycle beside Cualbar’s just before the latter turned left to Crossing Osmena, said he heard someone shout “Dan” before he proceeded towards New Bataan.

Across the murder site, a mother and son saw Cualbar stop his bike, the killer parking his bike and beside him and, facing him, fired shots on his stomach and chest four times. Cualbar breathed his last on the road where he fell. He left behind wife Aurelia and six children.

Compostela Valley police chief Mohammad Ali Dampac was in Manila when Cualbar was killed. He said his investigators reported that there were three witnesses who testified that Cualbar was not a member of Bayan Muna.

Cualbar’s widow said no police personnel visit them at their house to ask them to shed light on her husband’s death. “That’s what the leftist groups are saying,” he said, adding, if they have witnesses, if they have evidence, they should come forward so the case could be solved.

On “winning the hearts and minds” of the people, Luga said they have a “small part” to play and that “most of it should be LGUs and other government agencies. Sometimes we get out of focus (and focus on) war fightinbg only. But the locals, because of the influence of the NPA they can’t see the presence of government,” he said.

He acknowledged that in some parts, the people fear the military.

“That’s because of the NPA influence. They fear the presence of the military because that’s what the NPA said, so we have to do a lot of effort,” he said.

“How do you make them not fear you?” MindaNews asked.

“Well, not do things illegal. We have to Look good and do good. We need the help of other agencies in government; community effort, local public officials – to get their hearts and minds. (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)

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