On AFP’s declaration of Davao Occidental as “insurgency free”
A few days ago, Sen. Bato dela Rosa (former police chief, who is among those charged for crimes against humanity in the International Criminal Court), together with officers of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), declared that Davao Occidental is now “insurgency free.”
Well, they can believe and declare all they want. For 50 years, nothing stopped them from making such grand pronouncements even if they had to eat their words later. And I am certain that they will again eat their words sooner or later.
The Lumad people, the local peasants, and inland and coastal fisherfolk in Davao Occidental are among the poorest and most oppressed in the country. They suffer slave-like conditions and forms of oppression and punishment by local warlords. They suffered gross human rights violations perpetrated by the AFP’s 73rd IB in the course of its scorched earth tactics in the past few years.
The masses of Davao Occidental are proud of their long history of resistance. They strongly desire revolutionary change and continue to keep in touch with units of the NPA.
I will not reveal exact details of the NPA’s presence and movement in the area. But we have been informed that the local NPA units are aware how eager the masses of Davao Occidental are to continue waging resistance against the oppressive landlords and land-grabbing mining companies and big businesses, especially now amid the severe economic crisis.
To understand the significance (or insignificance) of the AFP’s declaration, we must point out that Davao Occidental is a very small province (composed of five towns) carved out of Davao del Sur in 2012 to accommodate local political interests.
The province is ruled by the Joyce and Bautista local big warlord families. They are big landlords who maintain private armies and are in collusion with big American mining companies in the area.
The Bautistas, in particular, were installed by Marcos Sr in the 1970s to facilitate the entry of business operations of Danding Cojuangco. San Miguel Corporation is responsible for driving away the B’laans and Kaolo lumad masses from their lands to establish their plantations and energy projects.
The province also serves as a backdoor for the entry and transhipment of illegal drugs and other contraband. The warlords also maintain marijuana plantations, all with the full knowledge of the military and police.