Stop the smear campaign and red tagging of human rights defenders

Let me ask fellow PMAers, the generals of the AFP and PNP mentioned above, what has happened to the PMA Honor Code of NOT TO LIE, NOT TO STEAL, NOT TO CHEAT nor TOLERATE THOSE WHO DO? Is the PMA Honor Code only observed in Fort Del Pilar?

By DR. DANTE SIMBULAN
Philippine Military Academy ’52

TO:
President Rodrigo Roa Duterte, (Adopted Member)……….. PMA Alumni Association
Ret. Maj. Gen. Delfin Lorenzana (PMA ’73)…………. Secretary, DND
Ret. AFP Gen. Hermogenes Esperon, J. (PMA ’74)…… National Security Adviser
Gen. Benjamin Madrigal, Jr. (PMA ’85)……………………. Chief of Staff, AFP
Brig. Gen. Fernando T. Trinidad (PMA ’87)………….. Dep. Comdr, AFP Intel
Maj. Gen. Erwin Neri (PMA ’88)……………………… Chief, ISAFP
Lt. Gen. Macairog Sabiniano Alberto (PMA ’86) ……… Commanding General, PA
Ret. PNP Sr. Supt. Alex Paul Monteagudo (PMA ’81) … Director General, NICA
Ret, PN Commo. Vicente Agdamag (PMA ’77)……….. Deputy Director General, NSC
PNP Sr. Supt. Omega Jireh Fidel (PMA ’89)…………… PNP DIGM, Member, NTF
Maj. Gen. Antonio Parlade, Jr. (PMA ’87)……………. . Asst. Dep. Chief of Staff, CMO

Cavaliers,

Like you, I am a graduate of PMA (Cl. ’52) and a member of the PMAAA. As graduates of PMA and members of the PMAAA, we call each other “cavaliers.” Even President Rodrigo Roa Duterte, although not a PMA graduate, could be considered a cavalier because he was an adopted member of PMA Class 1967 and later, by the PMAAA.

It may interest you to know that PMA Class 1967 had members who became activists who joined the Kabataang Makabayan while still cadets. It was the class in which then PC Lt. Victor N. Corpuz who raided the PMA Armory in Fort Del Pilar and joined the New People’s Army in 1970. For six years, Victor Corpuz was with the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP)-NPA and he even reportedly became a member of the Central Committee of the CPP. In 1976, his PMA classmates arranged for his surrender. Instead of being released, he was detained for 10 long years. He was tried by a military tribunal, and together with Bernabe Buscayno a.k.a. Commander Dante of the NPA and Prof. Jose Maria Sison, was sentenced to die by firing squad. The sentence was not carried out because of the EDSA uprising against the Marcos Dictatorship. Corazon Cojuangco-Aquino, the widow of Benigno Aquino, Jr. became the president who pardoned both Buscayno and Victor Corpuz and were both released in 1986. Corpuz was “rehabilitated” by the AFP. He was assigned to the Office of Chief of Staff Gen. Angelo Reyes, and had agreed to work against his former comrades in the NPA. He was promoted from his former rank of 1st Lt. to Brigadier General (!) when he was designated as Chief of the Intelligence Service of the AFP.

***

Pres. Rodrigo Roa Duterte, a.ka. “Digong” and “Rody,” like Victor Corpuz, was also a self-declared Leftist. He was an activist since his student days at Lyceum. He was a student of Jose Maria Sison who later became the chairperson of the CPP-NPA. Like Corpuz, he became a member of Kabataang Makabayan. When Duterte was mayor of Davao City, he became friends with NPA Commander Leoncio Pitao (a.k.a. Ka Parago). Duterte allowed a hero’s burial of commander Parago of thousands in the streets of Davao City. Duterte publicly admitted that he “was not against the NPA and its quest for social inequality.” I suppose it is this similarity of views of Duterte and Corpuz why PMA Cl ’67 adopted him as a “mistah.”

****

This background of President Duterte who was once an activist and a self-declared leftist and “socialist” may surprise the present crop of AFP and PNP generals who are now engaged in a smear and red-tagging campaign, not only against activists and leftists but also against human rights defenders such as Karapatan, Rural Missionaries of the Philippines, Mindanao Interfaith Service Foundation, Ibon Foundation, National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers and other critics of the Duterte regime. Karapatan is a non-profit NGO that is conducting human rights advocacy by monitoring and documenting human rights violations in the Philippines since 1995. It is a national alliance of organizations, groups and individuals working for the promotion and defense of human rights and people’s rights in the Philippines. The Rural Missionaries of the Philippines, founded in 1969, is a non-profit NGO composed of men and women religious, priest and lay persons belonging to different denominations and congregations. It acts as mission partners of the Association of Major Religious Superiors in the Philippines (AMRSP). The Mindanao Interfaith Service Foundation, founded in 1983, is a non-profit religious institution serving the marginalized Lumad, Muslim and Christians in Mindanao. IBON Foundation is a non-profit development organization conducting research and education since 1978.

The Duterte regime and his generals in the AFP and PNP are not only smearing and harassing those organizations they have red-tagged as “communists” but have also engaged in the killing of some of their members. It is becoming clear that the red-tagging is not only the license to harass, to arrest with manufactured evidence, but also to kill. The regime has also decided to wage an international campaign so countries abroad will stop supporting human rights organizations in the Philippines.

****

In a gathering of human rights and democracy advocates held in Washington, DC. on April 6 to 8, 2019, I was asked to share my views on the developing political crisis under the Duterte regime and what we can do about it.

First of all, let us look briefly at the situation which propelled Rodrigo Duterte’s rise to power. When he was campaigning for the presidency, he pledged to address the following social problems and promised to solve them:

• The struggle for land of millions of landless peasants, the widening gap between the wealthy few and the masses of the people, the exploitation and oppressive relations between the owners of capital and their workers;
• The lack of jobs which forced millions of Filipino workers to leave their families and seek jobs in the US, in the Middle East, in Europe, in Canada and elsewhere;
• The neo-colonial relations which made us dependent on the US and other foreign powers;
• Elimination of the widespread graft and corruption by bureaucrat-capitalists in government; and
• In Davao City, Mayor Rodrigo Duterte used the military and police in getting rid of drug users, suspected dealers and petty criminals. He claimed he will do these to the rest of the country.

When Mayor Rodrigo Duterte ran as candidate to the Presidency, he promised to address all the above and said “Change is coming.”

He courted the support of the common people, proclaiming populist slogans, even setting up a radio program called “Gikan sa Masa, Para sa Masa” (from the masses to the masses” (which he borrowed from the activists of the left).

He announced that he was a leftist, even a “socialist.” He befriended NPA communist guerillas operating in Davao where he was a mayor for 22 years. He was a friend of the late NPA guerilla commander Leoncio Pitao (a.k.a. Commander Parago).

Perhaps to convince people of his being a Leftist, he even appointed several leftist personalities in government—(a) Judy Taguiwalo as secretary of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), (b) Rafael Mariano as secretary of the Department of Agrarian Reform, (c) Liza Maza as head of the National Anti-Poverty Commission, (d) Joel Maglungsod as undersecretary of the Department of Labor and Employment, and (e) Terry Ridon as chair of the Presidential Commission for the Urban Poor.

Actually, Duterte was elected by only 38 percent out of 81 percent of voters who went to the polls. The other candidates (Interior Secretary Mar Roxas, Senator Grace Po, Vice President Jejomar Binay and the late Senator Miriam Defensor) got the rest of the votes but Duterte bested all of them.

Having won the Presidency, it did not take long, however, when Duterte showed his true colors. He started appointing military and police generals, about 40 of them, to cabinet positions and other agencies of the government.

First, he saw to it that all the leftists he appointed in government are eased out. He replaced the government peace panel in the peace negotiations with the NDFP with retired AFP generals headed by General Carlito Valdez, Jr. who was designated as the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process. General Valdez is a known “peace spoiler” who is against the peace negotiations between the GRP-NDFP. The military generals led by Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and Gen. Valdez, Jr. persuaded President Duterte to unilaterally terminate the peace talks with the National Democratic Front and branded the CPP-NPA-NDF as “terrorists.”

Instead of negotiating with the NDFP in a foreign neutral venue, General Valdez said the government plans to end the rebellion and destroy the CPP-NPA-NDFP in a few years with his so-called “Whole of Nation” approach. This involves mobilizing not only the national government and all government agencies, but also the LGUs (local government units) including the barangays. All of the above are expected to support the “localized peace talks.” Meanwhile, the AFP and PNP will continue with their military operations.

The implementation of this so-called ‘Whole of Nation” approach has already been put into effect:

• The peace negotiations with the NDFP was unilaterally terminated by President Duterte. General Valdez, Jr. announced that JASIG (Joint Agreement on Security and Immunity Guarantees) and CARHRIHL (Comprehensive Agreement on Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law) are suspended and can no longer be invoked.
• This arbitrary announcement was followed by the arrests of NDFP peace consultants: Rey Claro Casambre, Adelberto Silva, Rafael Baylosis, Vic Ladlad and Renante Gamara, although protected by JASIG were illegally detained with manufactured charges. Another peace consultant was assassinated while he was sleeping in a bus he was riding on his way home!
• His war against critics involves the red-tagging of youth activists in universities, arrests of Maria Ressa of Rappler and harassment of other journalists, arrests and killing of lawyers, accusing bishops, nuns, priests, pastors, and others working for the poor and marginalized as “communists”; and the massacre of farmers.

WHAT IS TO BE DONE? WHAT CAN WE DO?

There are several things we can do. We can expose and oppose the crimes of the Duterte regime and his military and police in their war against critics. We should widely circulate information on these crimes against the poor and marginalized among compatriots, Americans and other allies.

We should utilize to the maximum the reports on human rights violations by Karapatan and those by churches (Catholic and Protestant and Muslim churches coming from the homeland). Join US friends and other allies in their lobbying with US Senators Congresspersons to cut the aid given to the Duterte government, the AFP and the PNP.

We can support the struggle of peasants for land, the struggle of workers for jobs and living wages, the struggle of the indigenous peoples against mining companies and plantation capitalists and against the AFP, PNP and paid paramilitary units.

We should demand justice for the tens of thousands killed in the drug wars, in the massacre of peasants, workers, students, priests, lawyers, journalists, etc.

In conclusion, let me ask fellow PMAers, the generals of the AFP and PNP mentioned above, what has happened to the PMA Honor Code of NOT TO LIE, NOT TO STEAL, NOT TO CHEAT nor TOLERATE THOSE WHO DO? Is the PMA Honor Code only observed in Fort Del Pilar?

Now that they are high ranking officers in the AFP and PNP, would they continue to violate the PMA Honor Code as long as it will benefit their career? Can they now tell lies, cheat or even steal through various systems they have invented such as “pabaon,” “conversion” and pocket the reward money from fake NPA surrenderees?

Let me remind the Cavaliers, including “cavalier” Duterte, that because of the many crimes they have committed and continue to commit, their plan of ending the rebellion through the so-called “whole of nation” approach will fail because they are driving more and more people, especially the youth, into the arms of the rebel army.

*Dr. Dante Simbulan is a political scientist, retired professor and a former Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) officer. He taught at the Philippine Military Academy, University of the Philippines, Ateneo de Manila University, Maryknoll College (now Miriam College) and the Polytechnic University of the Philippines. Arrested by former PMA comrades-in-arms serving the dictator and detained for more than three years without charges, he was given temporary release only after human rights organizations from churches and universities pressured the Marcos regime for his release. He was adopted as prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International. He is based in the US and heads the Katarungan Center for Peace, Justice and Human Rights in the Philippines.

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