Monday, April 26, 2010

State agents accused of defacing campaign posters of leftist lawmakers in Mindanao

Photos released by the Makabayan Cotabato show one of two men it accused of defacing campaign posters of Representatives Satur Ocampo and Liza Maza in Cotabato City in Mindanao. (Mindanao Examiner)

COTABATO CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / April 26, 2010) – Two progressive party list groups accused state agents of defacing campaign posters of its two senatorial candidates in the southern Philippines.

Jayvee Apiag, secretariat of Makabayan Cotabato, an alliance of progressive political groups, said volunteers of Bayan Muna and Kabataan party lists, caught two men over the weekend defacing posters of Representatives Liza Maza and Satur Ocampo in Cotabato City.

He said the men also posted signs tagging the two candidates and their organizations as communist groups. Ocampo who belongs to Bayan Muna and Maza, a member of the GABRIELA party list group, are both political activists.

The military previously tagged the two lawmakers as communists and their organizations as front of the New People’s Army, the armed wing of the outlawed Communist Party of the Philippines. The two had previously denied military accusations against them and branded them as black propaganda.

“We are once again being maltreated for carrying a political platform that promotes fundamental human and democratic rights, for leading mass struggles against oppression and exploitation and for using the ballot to elect patriotic and pro people candidates.”

“What transpired shows that the Arroyo regime is very frantic in trying to stop progressive candidates from pursuing politics of change; that the government and its allies will never cease its time worn fascist tactics and smear campaign against progressive party lists and candidates so as to triumph on Oplan Zero Scheme,” Apiag said.

“Oplan Zero Scheme” refers to a supposed secret military campaign to deny or prevent leftist personalities from winning in next month’s general elections.

Apiag said they have photographs of one of the two men who were caught defacing the campaign posters of Ocampo and Maza. The second man escaped after volunteers of Bayan Muna and Kabataan party list groups accosted them.

“When being confronted, the civilian avoided questions and rushed on a green multi-cab vehicle with license plate number LFX 739 where his companion is waiting for him and hurried their way to Notre Dame Avenue fly-over. Makabayan has documented the scenario,” he said.

Apiag said the two men were state agents. He said they would file charges against the two men for violating the Omnibus Election Code. “We will file formal complaints against agents of state for violating the election laws and for denying us our right to campaign freely, free from any form of harassments, duress and threats,” he said.

Early this month, the militant group called Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, also accused government soldiers of actively campaigning against progressive party list organizations.

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

The military also tagged the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan as a communist front accused it 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, which 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 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 also 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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