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Friday, September 20, 2019
BACOLOD

Ombion: The beating of war drums

Perspective

HAVE intensified, and it looks like the people of Negros are in for a bigger, fiercer and longer war.

After the massive deployment in Negros of additional army battalions, hundreds of intelligence companies and special operations teams, and the most recent deployment of hundreds of newly trained police special forces, President Rodrigo Duterte also gave a marching order to all soldiers and police forces to give the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) what they deserve, with equal brutality.

In response, the CPP-NPA leadership have likewise ordered its armed guerrillas and partisan operatives to intensify their tactical offensives against all state security forces, including DDS or Duterte Diehard Supporters involved in attacking progressive leaders and ordinary citizens.

So chances are, this generation and maybe the next, will unlikely experience the beauty of peace, but will only live in the deafening sounds of bullet and canon fires, and the irritating hums of the state attack helicopters and fighter jets.

During the presidential campaign in 2016, then Mayor Duterte kept on repeating one of his promises that he will restore peace in the entire land and reduce the state expenditures on defense and security and convert the funds to improve farm equipment and tools and raise agricultural productivity.

The contrary has happened. Peace talks with the CPP-NPA-NDFP was stalled several times and finally shut down in late 2018. AFP and PNP combatants and support units increased several fold, and so their firepower, salaries and the overall defense and security budget. Counter insurgency operations intensified in rural areas especially in indigenous people’s communities. Martial law was imposed throughout Mindanao using the Marawi siege.

Militarization intensified and spread out to major islands of the archipelago, involving more checkpoints, tighter borders control, curfews, patrol operations, control of civilian movements, soldiers’ encampments in towns and barangay centers, among others.

It is Negrosanons’ bitter experience in the past decades that when militarization occurs, especially with bigger soldiers encampments in rural areas, prolonged combat patrols, intense psywar and intelligence operations, the armed insurgents would only be gloating over bigger opportunities to wipe out operating soldiers, seize more high powered rifles and ammunition to arm hundreds and thousands of their mass supporters already oriented for protracted war.

And as usual, the state security forces who could hardly catch up with the highly mobile guerrillas, would turn to progressive leaders in the communities, including the unarmed, and even innocent civilians, to exact revenge for their combat losses. At their worse, they would conduct sustained and massive search and destroy operations in and around suspected guerrillas’ lairs.

Would the state security forces really walk their talk in claiming they are transformed now, well oriented on matter of respect and defense of human rights, and even on observance of international protocols on the conduct of war and handling of war prisoners, and won’t ever repeat again their brutalities during the martial years and immediate post Marcos regime era?

I heartily respect their claims and declarations, but many times, I tend to be in disbelief because facts and reports simply point to the contrary, to the same scenario as in the Marcos times.

The massive deployment of troops in Negros and elsewhere, intensified military operations, the increase in military and security budget, the increase in soldiers pay and benefits, and not the least, the constant exhortation of the President himself for his all support for his troops and against peaceful solutions to the roots of war - are clear proof that the administration has shut down the road to peace, and intensifies the beating of its war drums.

Certainly, the CPP-NPA forces and supporters are not cowed. With the behaviors and conduct of the ruling administration and the emboldened state security forces well protected and supported by the president, the increasing internal and international pressures on the administration, everything seems only working to the bigger tactical and strategic advantage of the CPP-NPA-NDFP, who thrives on the strength of their ideological and organization, and fired up by the worsening economic and political crisis in the country.

Still, I hope and pray that some doors are still open for giving peace process another shot for good. God bless us all.


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