‘Special Ops’ targeting chairperson and spokesperson, BAYAN says
Activists in Aklan province called on the military and police to stop its operations targeting their leaders and demanded the withdrawal of army troops in civilian communities.
In an alert, the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan in Aklan said it condemns the harassment against its chairperson George Calaor and spokesperson Kim-Sin Tugna, as well as members of peoples’s organizations and other civilians.
“We will hold the 301st Brigade of the Philippine Army, the local PNP, and the Duterte government responsible for any harm done to Calaor and Tugna,” the group said.
BAYAN-Aklan reported that a coordinated police and military operation is ongoing against its leaders and members that is “clearly intended to sow fear and silence activists like Calaor and Tugna.”
“This could be a prelude to a wider violent crackdown in the province and region. We remember how state forces previously attacked communities in Capiz and Iloilo which led to massacres and extrajudicial killings,” the group added.
The Philippine Army denied BAYAN’s accusations.
‘Only for training’
In a statement, 301st Infantry Brigade-Philippine Army commander Brig. Gen. Marion Sison said the presence of soldiers Barangay Cawayan, New Washington, and Barangay Poblacion, Kalibo, is part of a 45-day immersion phase as students of the Civil-Military Operations Competency Enhancement Training (CMOCET).
“CMOCET is an In-Service Training of the Philippine Army’s 3rd Infantry Division Training School focused on “community consultations and problem-solving sessions,” the general said.
“CMOCET students were not deployed to conduct surveillance on anyone but to apply their learning through community visitations, dialogues, symposiums, and awareness drives,” he added.
Sison also said that the deployment has the approval of local government officials.
Surveillance against activists
BAYAN-Aklan however reported that the soldiers are conducting surveillance operations against Tugna and Calaor, both red-tagging victims by the military.
The group said that Barangay Poblacion chairperson Neil Candelario has confirmed that a “special operation” is being conducted against the Calaor, also a well-established poet, and Tugna.
“In fact, our (Calaor and Tugna) pictures were first shown to him (Candelario) while investigating our persons to the Punong Barangay. It was also the barangay captain who told us about the “special operation” as verbalized by their personnel when they a paid courtesy call to Punong Barangay Candelario on June 20, 2022,” BAYAN-Aklan revealed.
“Moreover, there are people in the communities that can confirm their surveillance activities against Mr. Tugna and Mr. Calaor,” it added.
The group said it fears that the “special operations” would lead to warrantless searches and arrests, and possibly, extra-judicial killings, recalling the massacre of nine Tumandok indigenous persons and the arrest of 17 others in December 2020.
Like the massacre and mass-arrest victims, BAYAN-AKlan leaders and members have been the subject of intensified vilification and red-tagging by the military and the police, it added.
BAYAN-Aklan said the military have no business being in civilian communities except to so fear among the populace. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)