Army using Anti-Terror Law to coerce government officials, employees into participating in counter-insurgency ops

The National Democratic Front-Eastern Visayas today expressed alarm over the increasing number of local government units and government employees whom Philippine Army officials have been forcing into participating in and expressing support for their counter-insurgency operations, or else be charged of violating the Anti-Terror Law (ATL.)

Reports received by the People’s Democratic Government list at least 122 barangays and municipalities whose officials were threatened by Brig. Gen. Lowell Tan of the 803rd Infantry Brigade and Lt. Col. Juan Gullem of the 20th Infantry Battalion into expressing support for the military’s Retooled Community Support Program (RCSP) operations in Northern Samar.

In at least two occasions, soldiers hoodwinked barangay officials from Catubig and Las Navas towns into attending anti-communist assemblies. According to the officials, they were told there would be a municipal meeting in the town proper. When they arrived, they were coerced to declare the CPP-NPA-NDF as “persona non grata,” in full view of soldiers and police in full combat gear. If they refused, they were told, they would be violating the ATL.

One official from Las Navas, infuriated at the blatant disrespect of human rights, expressly refused to cow to the military’s wishes. Such was his fit of rage that he had to be given emergency medical care.

Military and police forces have been conducting RCSP operations simultaneously in Catubig and Las Navas and in seven others in the province since March. Focused military operations have also been conducted in the western part of Northern Samar since December last year.

In January, Lt. Col. Gullem wrote a letter to municipal officials in Las Navas, alleging that their failure to report activity of the New People’s Army to the military is tantamount to violating the ATL.

The military in Matuguinao, Western Samar was earlier reported to have also used the ATL to threaten hundreds of barangay officials and residents into expressing support for the RCSP operations in the town and issuing “persona non grata” declarations.

Aside from local government officials, members of progressive organizations for government employees and party-lists were maliciously red-tagged and branded as “traitors” by Brig. Gen. Tan, going on air to call for charging them with violating the ATL on mere grounds of membership to these organizations.

The NDF-EV denounces this malicious red-tagging spree by the Army, who are terrorizing local government officials and employees into waging Duterte regime’s bloody and brutal counter-insurgency campaign among their constituents. Rodrigo Duterte and his fascist military are the true terrorists for using the draconian law for their anti-communist witch-hunt and force civilians into their dirty war.

The military’s brandishing of the ATL is part of its psychological warfare operations to fish out suspected supporters and members of the revolutionary movement among the peasant communities, to sow discord among the residents, and to justify subjecting them to more abuses. We recall how two Aeta men in Zambales were tortured by Army troops after they were charged with violating the ATL.

We urge public officials and government employees to join the broadening opposition to the Anti-Terror Law. They must expose and oppose the Army’s trampling upon democratic rights and international humanitarian law. We urge them to protect themselves and their citizens from the military’s malicious and dangerous red-tagging by resisting militarization in their communities and asserting their democratic rights guaranteed by various human rights decrees and the 1987 Constitution. #

Army using Anti-Terror Law to coerce government officials, employees into participating in counter-insurgency ops