Duterte: Anti-communist group to stir animosity

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Tuesday, March 18, 2014


DAVAO City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte rejected the revival of the anti-communist group Alsa Masa especially if they will be armed.

This same sentiment was also aired by the Regional Council of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines-Southern Mindanao Region (RDC-NDFP-SMR), who said this will just put civilian lives at stake.

Mayor Duterte made the statement after the clamor for the revival of the Alsa Masa in Davao del Sur following the New People's Army dawn attack in Matanao town last week that resulted to the death of twelve people and the wounding of 10 others.

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The Alsa Masa revival was suggested by the mayor of Matanao and was supported by majority of the local leaders of the province.

Alsa Masa was a movement organized in the barangays against communist rebels at the height of communist rebellion in the region, particularly in Davao city, in the mid-1980s. It rose to popularity as then radio broadcaster Juan Porras Pala Jr. was at its forefront and while attacking the rebels in his radio program also went around brandishing guns when not on air. Pala was shot dead on September 6, 2003, after surviving two other attempts on his life – on June 14, 2001 and on April 29, 2003.

Mayor Duterte fears that reviving the Alsa Masa will just bring animosity between the local leaders, particularly those in the barangays, and the rebel group. He said it would be best to open channels of communications with the rebel groups than confront them head on.

In a separate interview, Davao del Sur Governor Claude Bautista said that the new Alsa Masa will not be armed. He said they will just be tapped for the security of their respective barangays just like the barangay tanods.

Bautista said he also does not want to arm the new Alsa Masa as he does not want a repeat of what happened when after the Alsa Masa in the 80s no longer had communist rebels to fight with became guns-for-hire.

Bautista on Friday said the reorganization of province-wide Alsa Masa will counter another attack of the NPA, who were blamed for the series of clashes in the province.

He said it will only be "temporary" for as long as the New People's Army (NPA) refuses to talk with the local government.

The revival of the Alsa Masa was endorsed during a meeting with the municipal mayors and Bautista.

"The peace and order council agreed to have a uniform implementation of the programs for the group," Bautista said.

Police regional director for Southern Mindanao Chief Superintendent Wency Pascual also expressed apprehension on the planned revival of the Alsa Masa especially when they will be armed.

Pascual said what is best is for the people to revive an unarmed Alsa Masa and task the group to serve as the eyes and ears of the authorities in monitoring the rebel groups.

Philippine Army 10th Infantry Division commander Major General Ariel Bernardo, on the other hand, is throwing his all-out support on the revival of the Alsa Masa. He said the people must learn to stand up against the rebel atrocities.

Over at the rebel side, the RDC-NDFP-SMR yesterday condemned the revival of the anti-communist vigilante group Alsa Masa, saying it might also put civilians in danger.

"We deplore the revival of Alsa Masa and the maintenance of state-sponsored paramilitary groups or armed vigilante groups in Davao del Sur. The Alsa Masa will not only be used to deter the New People's Army but it will also target civilians, ordinary peasants and progressive leaders. By sponsoring Alsa Masa, covert vigilante groups and arming civilians, local GPH officials and the AFP are opening the floodgates for more human rights atrocities," Rubi del Mundo, spokesperson for the NDFP, said in a statement.

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on March 18, 2014.

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