Philippines: Troops Force Camarines Folk to Attend Seminars, Campaigns for Arroyo Son, Against Partylist Groups

May. 13, 2007

Residents of the first district of Camarines Sur comprising the municipalities of Cabusao, Del Gallego, Libmanan, Lupi, Minalabac, Pamplona, Pasacao, Ragay, San Fernando, and Sipocot are being forced to attend seminars conducted by the 42nd Infantry Battalion under Lieutenant Colonel Dece M. Yabo of the 9th Infantry Division.

Contributed to Bulatlat
Vol. VII, No. 14 May 13-19, 2007

Residents of the first district of Camarines Sur comprising the municipalities of Cabusao, Del Gallego, Libmanan, Lupi, Minalabac, Pamplona, Pasacao, Ragay, San Fernando, and Sipocot are being forced to attend seminars conducted by the 42nd Infantry Battalion under Lieutenant Colonel Dece M. Yabo of the 9th Infantry Division. These seminars, called by the military as Information Caravan and Integrated Defense System (ITDS) Orientation Live-In Seminar, follow a strict schedule from 2 p.m. in the first day to 11 a.m. the next day. In another certificate shown by a former participant, the words and Alsa Masa came after (ITDS).

Hindi ka mahihirapan kumuha ng magkatugmang detalye kahit sino pa ang makausap mo sa distrito, dahil marami ang iniimbitahan at pareho-pareho ang naranasan sa seminar, (You will not have a hard time getting similar details if you talk to anybody in the district, because many were invited and experienced the same things during the seminar) said Roy Calfoforo of the the Philippine Partnership for the Development of Human Resources in Rural Areas (PHILDHRRA), which has been implementing projects in the area.

Syempre, walang gustong magpabanggit ng pangalan pag kinakausap ang media dahil takot, pero kalat na kalat yung nangyayari. Nakikita sila ng publiko pag nagmamartsa (Obviously, nobody would want to identify themselves when talking to media because they are afraid, but that is public knowledge. They are seen by the public when they are marching), he added.

If you are absent in that seminar, which is usually held at the municipal gym, then you are presumed to be an NPA (New Peoples Army) sympathizer by the military, said the councilor, who requested not to be named. Those who were not able to attend had been told to make up for their absences by participating in the next scheduled activity to be held in another town.

Hilarious and inane

More than 400 officials from 24 barangays (villages) were called to join the orientation held last February 16-17, 2007. The people who attended the orientation said the seminar started during the period of the day when participants were most tired and would prefer to idly spend time dozing in the early afternoon.

Since no food was provided by organizers of the activity, the people were told to bring their own. Some municipal officials contributed vegetables and a few sacks of rice for the barangay leaders attending the seminar.

A councilor from another barangay in San Fernando, Camarines Sur said the seminar began with a talk by a representative of the Department of Interior and Local Governments (DILG) on the merits of the programs carried out by the government.

Another module consisted of a lecture by a Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) employee, who lavishly praised the government for its accomplishments in land redistribution to the poor farmers. Probably an indication that the topics failed to elicit his interest, the councilor said he could not recall the names of the speakers.

Perceived by the participants as hilarious and inane, the counter-insurgency campaign served as the last topic of the seminar. A guy who sounded like a military chaplain bantered fanatically against the evils of communism while quoting the bible, the same councilor said, A military officer also warned about the continuing American imperialism and the desire of China to gradually conquer the Philippines.

The lecturers also directed the barangay officials to sing Filipino religious songs such as Lupa (Land) and Hiram sa Diyos (Borrowed from God).

Those caught snoozing during the lectures were admonished and told that their actuations would not be tolerated because these reflect a non-supportive attitude toward government policies. The soldiers would use charcoals to smear the faces of those who could not prevent their eyelids from drooping, the councilor said. The responsibility to wake up a seatmate also fell on all the participants.

If the people would want to use the toilets, they were only allowed to leave the gym by turns.


About 8 a.m. the following day, the people were ordered to march to the streets, and forced to shout anti-communist slogans while carrying placards with similar messages.

When we came back to the gym, there was a streamer with the message Welcome Dato Arroyo printed on it, but he did not arrive, the councilor said, We then heard a soldier shout Mabuhay si Dato Arroyo! (Cheers to Dato Arroyo!)

Diosdado Dato Arroyo is one of the sons of Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. He is currently running for the position of representative of the 1st district of Camarines Sur against Sabas Abang Mabulo, three-term mayor of San Fernando town. Dato Arroyos brother Juan Miguel Mikey Arroyo is running for reelection as representative of the 2nd district of Pampanga in Central Luzon.

These (seminars) only happened during the election campaign. They want to instill fear among the barangay officials, said Mabulo, who relies primarily on the support of civil society organizations and religious leaders against the much vaunted political machinery of Arroyo.

Sadly, in this district, the military seems to have continued to allow itself to be used in trampling the people’s economic and political rights. In this scenario, there is not much hope for genuine peace to reign in the district.” said Soc Banzuela, also a Bicolano and leader of Aksiyon para sa Kapayaan at Katarungan (AKKAPKA), a movement committed to active non-violence.

Renne Gumba, executive director of the Ateneo de Nagas Institute of Politics, does not see anything politically productive as a result of direct intervention of either the military or the NPA. Instead of helping their respective causes, he said that it will be detrimental to the electoral process.

It will endanger the 2007 election as the remaining legitimate arena for getting the sentiment of the people, said Gumba. These sentiments must neither be coerced nor influenced by others, but based on personal conviction and values, added Gumba.

In an interview with Ces Drilon of ABS-CBN, the military denied campaigning for Dato Arroyo and campaigning against Bayan Muna (People First), Anakpawis (Toiling Masses), Gabriela Womens Party and Kabataan Youth).

The seminars may have also intimidated the community leaders, making them think twice before openly supporting these party list groups.

The military warned us once that we would be branded as NPAs if Bayan Muna wins, a lady councilor said, If Gabriela wins in our community, the military might think that we are also NPA members, and this is why we are becoming reluctant to vote for them.

Mabulo said that the military in Camarines Sur is attempting to reverse the current situation that shows these party-list groups as having a significant number of supporters in rural areas. It is likely that soldiers are adopting the view that stoking the embers of an anti-communist hysteria can create a conflagration of fear, generating an aversion toward candidates perceived as assuming a progressive or left-leaning political stand.

Mabulo is not at all surprised if the military would link him to the activities of the NPA, particularly if he displays a strong performance during the campaign.

For the military, it is over as far as the election in the first district is concerned, Mabulo said. Undauntedly, however, the mayor refuses to call it quits amid constant pronouncements by the other camp that he had backed out from the race.

But instead of working for Arroyo, the seminars seemed to have produced a number of irate residents. We lost two days of income. It was a waste of time, the councilor said in describing the activity. He added in jest that the militarys erroneous belief of the efficacy of such seminars may even augur well for Mabulos campaign.

Stronger military presence

Aside from the issue of alleged partisanship of the military being raised by civil society organizations, they doubt the presidential sons ability to resolve the problems of human rights violations and insurgency.

If he wins, can we really expect Dato to defend his constituents when they become victims of violent conflicts, knowing that his mother signed the Human Security Act? asked Calfoforo.

Banzuela predicts a stronger military presence in the province. “If Dato wins in Camarines Sur, we can be sure of an intensified militarization in the district. If he wins through military might and money, he will rule through them. Kawawa naman ang mga kababayan ko, (I pity my provincemates.) he said.

What the Bicolanos should be getting instead are the promised social reforms, added Banzuela. But they wont have these. There is much to be desired in the track record of Datos family and their main political supporters when it comes to eradicating poverty in the rural communities, he said. Bulatlat

comments powered by Disqus