AFP: Protest action mere propaganda

THE Philippine National Police (PNP) is set to file charges against leaders of militant groups who allegedly spearheaded the protest action of Typhoon Pablo victims that stopped traffic for 12 hours along the national highway in Montevista, Compostela Valley, Tuesday.

Police Superintendent Filmore Escobal, officer-in-charge of the Police Regional Office-Davao Police Community Relations Division, said they are filing charges of alarm and scandal, as well as obstruction to traffic against instigators of the protest that caused inconvenience to the riding and motoring public.

Escobal did not identify the militant leaders whom they are going to charge, as they are still collating enough evidence against them. The PNP is also eyeing to file charges for illegal assembly.

The militant groups that allegedly led the protest include Barug Katawhan, Bayan Muna, Kilusang Mayo Uno, Anak Pawis, Kadamay and Karapatan.

Asked for comment, Juland Suazo, Panalipdan-Southern Mindanao spokesperson, said filing a complaint against them is a form of “harassment against Barug Katawhan, an alliance of typhoon survivors in various communities of ComVal (Compostela Valley) and Davao Oriental.”

“Biktima na ng bagyo, deprived pa ng relief goods, malapit pang dinisperse, at ngayon may planong isampang kaso sa mga typhoon survivors and their support groups,” he told Sun.Star Davao via Facebook chat.

“Walay dautan sa barikada, dunay barikada tungod dunay dautan. (There is nothing wrong with a barricade. There was a barricade because something is wrong). The barricade was an organized response to government ineptitude, militarization and continuing plunder of the environment. It was definitely done and led by the organized masses,” he added.

Thousands of Pablo victims formed a human barricade along the national road in Montevista starting at 9 a.m. Tuesday, causing traffic for hours and stranding hundreds of vehicles and commuters. The barricade caused a 25-kilometer stretch of traffic.

The protesters complained of alleged sluggish relief response from government and demanded for a stop to large-scale mining and illegal logging activities. They also asked for 10,000 sacks of rice and wanted the military not to take part in the distribution of relief goods.

Tension rose when Compostela Valley Governor Arturo T. Uy and Social Welfare and Development Secretary Dinky Soliman headed to the barricade in the morning and tried to negotiate with the protesters. Both got a rude welcome.

Leaders of the protesters chided government and inflamed using a microphone when Soliman tried to grab the microphone, but she was denied.

"That's unfair, that's unfair," Uy told the protesters, and then grabbed the microphone himself to take his turn in denying the allegations.

Members of the PNP just kept watch and exercised maximum tolerance.

Both Uy and Soliman eventually left the barricade upon sensing it was futile to continue talking with the protesters.

The militant groups and residents only cleared the highway when a truck bearing some 1,900 food packs from the Provincial Government arrived around 9 p.m. Tuesday.

Major Jake Obligado, chief of the Civil Military Operations Battalion of the 10th Infantry Division, accused the militant groups of capitalizing on the poor and distressed people of Compostela Valley to create noise.

"We see this activity as mere propaganda," Obligado said during the regular Club 888 Forum at the Marco Polo Davao on Wednesday.

"Personally, I don't call them as progressive. They are problematic (groups)," he added.

Obligago said the military also took part in the rescue and relief operations after Pablo hit Compostela Valley and Davao Oriental last December 4.

"Since day one, we were there. We were there during rescue operations. We were there during relief operations. Where were they (militant groups) when the calamity struck? They were never there," he said.

"Since day one, they were irrelevant and insignificant," he added.

Obligado said there was also deception on the part of the militant groups as days earlier, they went house to house to inform the residents that Manny Pacquiao and Davao City Vice Mayor Rodrigo R. Duterte are arriving in Montevista to give relief goods.

Obligao went to claim that the number of protesters who took part in the barricade is only 1,500.

DSWD-Davao Director Priscilla N. Razon, meanwhile, denied allegations that relief goods did not reach the calamity victims in the area.

"We have covered practically all the barangays (affected)," said Razon, who appeared in the same forum held Tuesday morning.

She said there are 130,000 families affected by Pablo in Compostela Valley alone and that they already distributed close to 200,00 food packs.

Razon said Soliman was in Compostela Valley as there was an ongoing UN mission and to visit New Bataan and Barangay Andap when they heard reports that people are trooping to Montevista to stage a protest action.

Right away, she said Soliman proceeded to Montevista to meet the protesters.

"The secretary was firm enough to say that ‘I was ready to face them,'" Razon said, adding that Soliman is giving in to one of the demands of the protesters, which is to give the 10,000 sacks of rice they are asking.

Razon, however, made it clear they will only release the 10,000 sacks if the militant groups will submit a distribution plan for the DSWD to know who the intended beneficiaries are and where these will be distributed.

"We are accountable to the people because it's the people who pay taxes," she said. (With ANC)


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