By OLGA LAUZON
Part of the military training given to cadets of the Reserved Officers Training Corps (ROTC) program by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is being abreast to concerns to national security, and in turn knowing the enemies of the state. The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and its respective political and armed wing – the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and the New People’s Army (NPA) – is an established adversary of the government’s Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). The two parties has been at war for 48 years and counting, with neither camp showing signs of defeat.
Being in pursuit of the CPP-NPA-NDF for almost half a decade, the AFP has been aggressive in trying to pacify the communist group. But with this aggression, the armed force has compromised the safety of the citizens that it was mandated to protect – the cases of vilifying unions, institutions and other legitimate peoples’ organizations is growing ever so high in recent years.
It does not come as a surprise that this malpractice trickles down to training of student cadets in the ROTC.
“Preparing the youth”
In the ROTC Military Science Workbook, cadets are trained to observe and target progressive mass organizations, labeling these groups as communist fronts. Red-tagging legitimate organizations not only happens in the ROTC program in college, but in the high-school and elementary level as well.
In 2012, Department of Education’s Division Superintendent Mary A. Lang-ayan issued a memo to all public elementary and high schools in Baguio City that reads: “The Charlie Company of 5th Civil Military Operations Battalion, 5th Infantry Division, Philippine Army in coordination with the Department of Education will conduct a counterinsurgency campaign, a one hour symposium, in all public and elementary and high schools in this Division starting July 1, 2012, Saturday. This is to enhance pupils’/students’ consciousness about the lies, deception and clandestine operation of the Communist Terrorist Movement.”
In these seminars, progressive groups are branded as communist fronts.
The AFP is known to associate several progressive groups as fronts of the CPP. This poses a multitude of problems. First, the AFP disregards the glaring difference of legal progressive organizations and the underground group.
According to the ROTC Military Science Workbook, the CPP “aims to wrest state power and completely dissolve the existing government.” The group functions with its own directives, independent with that of the government. The legal progressive organizations, on the other hand, works in accordance to the statutes and laws of the state. Even in public demonstrations – they adhere to the rules of conduct that go with their right to speech and assembly. They follow bureaucratic procedures and are law-abiding citizens themselves.
Considering each of these groups as one and the same poses a risk to the lives of legitimate groups and individuals. This smear campaign endangers those who are only clamoring for their basic rights – fundamental rights that should have been upheld in the first place.
In a state where the greed of the ruling class prevails at the expense of the rights of others, the army serves as the few’s agents and mercenaries. We are not new to stories of militarized communities – where the AFP are deployed to pacify displaced or disadvantaged citizens who are only lobbying for the rights taken away from them. By considering ordinary citizens and activists as “enemies of the state”, the AFP licensed itself to deal with dissent the same way that they would with rebel and terrorist groups. They are essentially waging a war against its own people.
Furthermore, it cultivates the notion that asserting your rights when it’s trampled upon is against the law. It discourages being critical and acting out on the flaws that you observe with the government.
Dissent is a function of a healthy democracy. It allows the constituents to be heard, so that the state can serve and lead it better. Quelling dissent with bullets and violent dispersals will not stop it – it will only heighten their morale. The Filipino people has learned it the hard way that as long as we are plagued by the greed of the elite, the only way to uphold our rights is if we struggle and fight for it. # nordis.net