Friday, April 09, 2010

Philippine military accused of political partisan

A photo released Friday by the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan to the regional newspaper the Mindanao Examiner shows a Philippine Army soldier lecturing students in Davao City about leftist party list organization.

DAVAO CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / April 9, 2010) – Political activists opposed to President Gloria Arroyo’s rule accused Friday the Philippine military of campaigning against leftists and progressive groups in Mindanao where security forces are battling communist insurgents.

The Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, a party list group linked by the military to the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army rebels, also accused government soldiers of actively campaigning against progressive party list organizations which fielded candidates for the May 10 nationals elections.

It said government soldiers are conducting vilification campaign in Davao City after political activists on Tuesday chanced upon members of the 69th Infantry Battalion campaigning against progressive party list groups at the Philippine College of Technology.

The military also accused Bagong Alyansang Makabayan and other leftist party list organizations of misusing its congressional funds to the point that it cannot even provide even a piece of door for a school in Davao City.

"Dirty propaganda will not succeed for as long as this corrupt government fails in uplifting people’s lives from dire poverty," said John Birondo, a spokesman for the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan.

"These dirty verbal attacks against us will fail to gain people’s sympathy; we will not tolerate these lies sowed by the military because it is pure deception," he said.

Birondo said soldiers urged students not to join or support progressive groups, particularly Bagong Alyansang Makabayan and GABRIELA, a party list group that advocates for women’s issues.

GABRIELA is the acronym of General Assembly Binding Women for Reforms, Integrity, Equality, Leadership, and Action.

"The military accused progressive party lists of corrupting ‘pork barrel’ funds in Congress, a move in direct violation of the election code which prohibits the Armed Forces of the Philippines from partisan politics and partisan campaigning," Birondo said.

Pork barrel refers to the Priority Development Assistance Fund or PDAF amounting to P200 million pesos for each senator and P70 million for each congressman.

The PDAF makes possible the implementation, in every congressional district, of small-scale but significant projects which can not be part of large-scale projects of national agencies. These projects are generally in the form of infrastructure, health, education and social aid packages.

Ariel Casilao, a regional coordinator of the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan in Mindanao, said: "The military is desperate in preventing us from pushing reforms in the government; it being the mouthpiece of this corrupt and bankrupt government."

Casilao described the military as "mad dogs," and denied accusations that the progressive party lists have misused pork barrel fund. "The military is so frantic because it failed in their counter-insurgency program, the Oplan Bantay Laya and this is the reason why the military establishment is hell-bent in sowing lies and deception against legitimate people’s organizations and progressive party lists," he said.

The Bagong Alyansang Makabayan strongly denied it was misusing pork barrel funds.

It said President Arroyo stopped approving medical, education and infrastructure projects from progressive party list groups, including Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, after it pursued impeachment cases against the President in the past in connection to corruption scandals in the government.

"Everybody knows that Malacanang has stopped approving referrals from progressive party list for medical, education, and infrastructure projects since Bayan Muna and the other groups filed for Gloria’s impeachment. What is even worthy is that despite this fact, progressive party list organizations have continued to expand and consolidate its ranks and provide ample services to the vast majority through sheer hard work and principled alliance with other political groups over the last five years," Birondo said.

The Army’s 10th Infantry Division on Friday denied it was campaigning against progressive party list groups, including Bagong Alyansang Makabayan and GABRIELA, but admitted embarking on an information drive exposing alleged links of these organizations to the outlawed Communist Party of the Philippines and its armed wing, the New People’s Army which is actively operating in Davao City and other parts of Mindanao.

"The military is not campaigning against progressive party list organizations or other political groups, but we are just continuing our information drive exposing the links of these militant groups to the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army rebels," said Army Captain Rosa Maria Cristina Manuel. "It is up to the public to decide who to vote for in the coming national elections. We are non-partisan."

She said militant groups are fronts of the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army based on documents recovered by security forces from captured rebel camps in Mindanao.

The NPA is fighting the past decades for the establishment of a Maoist state in the country. Government peace talks with the rebels collapsed in 2001 after the communist group accused President Arroyo of reneging on several agreements, among them the release of all political prisoners and to put a stop to political killings in the country. (Mindanao Examiner)

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