Military Pullout from Urban Areas in Philippins Urged

Apr. 26, 2007

MANILA — Residents of various Metro Manila communities together with the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan and Karapatan faced off with the Armed Forces of the Philippines National Capital Region Command in a hearing of the Commission on Human Rights today. The community residents were also joined by some Metro Manila students who were also complaining about harassment from the military.

The hearing at the CHR was in response to complaints filed by community residents and students last April 2 and April 23. Cause-oriented groups also held a picket protest to dramatize their call for the immediate pull out of the AFP in Metro Manila communities.

Residents from Tondo and Sta. Mesa in Manila; Payatas and Commonwealth in Quezon City; and Caloocan were present at the hearing. The complainants were represented by their counsel Atty. Harry Roque of the University of the Philippines College of Law.

Our opposition to the presence of the AFP in Metro Manila communities stems from our documented cases of harassment and repression of the people. We have a long list of incidents, fact sheets and affidavits submitted to the CHR which we want immediately investigated, said Bayan secretary general Renato M. Reyes, Jr.

The AFP has a long record of human rights violations, particularly its involvement in extrajudicial killings and abductions which are well known and documented nationwide. We do not want these incidents to be replicated here in Metro Manila and other urban centers, Reyes said.

Bayan also slammed the reported plan of the AFP to conduct voters education and engage in election monitoring in Metro Manila.

The plan is nothing but a feeble justification of the AFPs continued presence in the communities. Voters education is not the job of the AFP. The AFP has in fact shown its utter bias against militant partylist groups and the opposition. The AFP has been engaged in electioneering against anti-Arroyo groups. The AFP is up to no good and we smell a very insidious plan, Reyes said.

Reyes said that community residents have complained that the AFP would show video presentations vilifying partylist groups as Bayan Muna, Anakpawis and Gabriela. The AFP would also intimidate people who are known to join rallies and other protest actions according to the militant group.

Besides, we all know the role played by the AFP Garci Generals during the 2004 elections. They helped the commission of massive electoral fraud in Mindanao. Until that is resolved, the AFP has no business talking about election fraud, Reyes said.

Previously, the AFP tried to justify its presence in the communities by saying it was part of counter-insurgency work, civilian operations, as well as maintaining public order. All these justifications were assailed by a broad range of groups and individuals including leaders of the Catholic Church.

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