DAVAO CITY—Members of the 69th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army have been found campaigning against progressive partylist groups inside one of the colleges in the city.
Sr. Diane Cabasagan, Pagbabago convenor and member of the Sisters’ Association in Mindanao (Samin), questioned the activity, saying it violated the Omnibus Election Code and the democratic essence of the whole electoral process.
Cabasagan said in a statement that the 69th IB, identified with Bantay Partylist Jovito Palparan, presented students of the Philippine College of Technology in Bajada a Powerpoint linking progressive partylist groups to the communist movement. The military also categorically told the students not to vote for partylists Bayan Muna, Gabriela, Anakpawis, ACT- Teachers, Kabataan and Katribu.
Section 261 of Batas Pambansa (National Law) 881 states that AFP officers and members may not, directly or indirectly, intervene in any election campaign or engage in any partisan political activity, except to vote or to preserve public order.
Cabasagan urged the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to investigate and bar the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) from committing similar acts.
Dr. Edward Aquino, regional director of the Commissioner on Higher Education (Ched) confirmed that they do not allow politicians, partylists and other groups to campaign inside state colleges and universities. However, he admitted that Ched does not have any control over private institutions. “It is up to the discretion of the administrators,” Aquino said.
Cabasagan said Pagbabago is still trying to find out about other schools visited by the AFP.
Reverend Sarly Templado of the United Church of Christ of the Philippines (UCCP), called on the electorate and concerned civilians to monitor similar election-related violations which disrupt the conduct of a peaceful and credible elections. “These blatant electioneering activities may also instigate election violence, hence, we urge the members of the police and the military to abide by its non-partisan role during the elections,” added Cabasagan.
The 69th IB, once assigned in Central Luzon under the 7th Infantry Division, has been identified with Retired General Jovito Palparan who used to lead the battalion before his retirement in late 2006. The battalion was transferred to Davao in August last year and now has forces in Paquibato, where Kumander Parago, the commanding officer of the NPA’s first Pulang Bagani Command, is based.
Palparan has earned the moniker of the “Butcher” among human rights advocates for his alleged involvement in the killings and disappearances of several activists while he was still in the military. Most of the cases have reached the Supreme Court and the United Nations.
The 69th IB has been linked to the deaths of Eden Marcellana and Eddie Gumanoy in 2003 and to the deaths of UP students Sherlyn Cadapan and Karen Empeño. The same battalion was also involved in the Hacienda Luisita massacre and the abduction of Jonas Burgos.
“If we want credible and meaningful elections, we should not sleep on our rights,” said Templado. “We should urge the military, the police and other government agencies to refrain from abusing their authority during the election period. Let us report cases of election-related violence and do our part in protecting our sacred rights,” he said.
In March, 700 participants from 10 barangays (villages) were told they were going to have a seminar about peace. However, after a lecture by the local government unit (LGU) on the importance of paying their taxes, the audience was subjected to partisan campaigns by the AFP. The 67th IB, who initiated the four-day stay-in activity in Baganga gym in Davao Oriental, claimed that partylist groups Bayan Muna, Gabriela, Anakpawis, ACT- Teachers, Kabataan and Katribu had links with the NPA.
Katribu national vice chairperson Dulphing Ogan said that on the last day, participants were made to attend a ‘peace rally’ bearing placards that vilified the progressive partylist groups. The 67th IB also invited elementary and high school students from nearby public schools to attend, saying they would be given a seminar on the El Nino. Teachers found out what the activity was about and asked the military not to make their students carry placards.
In Tagum City, campaign posters of the same progressive partylist groups were spray-painted with “Kampon ng Komunista” (Communist Spawn). Pagbabago is still trying to find out who is behind this vilification. ( CJ Kuizon/davaotoday.com/ davaotoday.com)