It has always been said that truth is the first casualty in war.
It has always been said, too, that all is fair in love and war.
But it was never said that one should be ignorant in war.
The first two can be accepted as truisms, the latter could prove fatal.
Activists complained the other day about the supposed statements made by a Christian fundamentalist pastor who was inciting that they should either be “killed” or “eliminated,” depending on the translation of a listener to the rants made by this Army ally over the AFP’s radio program.
Bayan secretary general Christian Tuayon, Karapatan secretary general Fred Caña and National Federation of Sugarworkers chairperson Ranie Lava were referring to the statements by one whom they identified as Pastor Al Molinos, a Baptist Church pastor, who is a seeming mainstay in the Army’s “Brigade Hour” that airs every Sunday over radio station dyHB-RMN Bacolod.
The activists claimed that during the January 8 edition of the program, Molinos said: “legal organizers in the urban that agitates the people should be annihilated” (translation by Bayan and Karapatan).
The exact Hiligaynon quote, transcribed from a recording of the program that was aired during a news conference Tuesday was: “Pero kinahanglan nga mapapas anay ang mga organizer nga ari di subong sa legal kay kung indi mapapas, amo na ang naga-agitate mo.”
This was a direct threat for the activists, the smoking gun, and positive proof that the Army was indeed responsible for the cases of extra-judicial killings in the island.
The key part in the supposed utterances of Molinos is “papas” that is the root word of “papason.”
“Papas” has several meanings in the Ilonggo dictionary, one being “to ruin, destroy, demolish utterly” and “to get rid of.” The other is “to beat down, cut down, assault and attack.”
The Army’s 303rd Infantry Brigade, through its spokesman, Col. Isabelo Delos Reyes, has not made any denial but clarified that the statements made by its guests do not reflect the official position of the Army unit in the island.
This effectively confirms that Delos Reyes is aware of what Molinos said but is practically steering clear of it for this would show that the Army is indeed in the business of sullying the reputation of legal progressive organizations or its officials.
The spate of extra-judicial killings during the Arroyo administration and even during the Aquino government when the nation is reputed to be going down the daang matuwid has shown that public vilification or the demonization of an individual or the organization to which he or she belongs is a first step before the actual execution.
This is a pattern that has been repeated again and again in the more than a thousand cases of “salvaging” or enforced disappearances in the country.
That the Army has chosen to simply make the technical denial actually demonstrates its lack of responsibility and has exposed the actual nature of its counter-insurgency campaign, Operation Plan Bantay Laya that makes no distinction between combatants and non-combatants.
Molinos’ statement that practically incites violence against civilians proves the pastor’s lack of knowledge about the Geneva Convention that protects non-combatants in conflict situations.
The Army, or Delos Reyes’ failure to provide some clarification or at least information to its listeners about the Geneva Convention and other internationally-accepted protocols that govern the conduct of war proves a crucial point: that there is no essential change in the AFP from Arroyo to Aquino.
Despite claims of its top officials that it is now a “reformed” AFP and its soldiers respect human rights, this incident has once again demonstrated the Army’s inability to understand what the concept of rights is all about.
It is, of course, foolish to expect that there would be some modicum of decency in the Army program because it is purely a propaganda tool that does not seek to enlighten and inform its audience.
Listening to Army programs in the past, during which I have been skewered quite unfairly when I was still a full-time activist, it is safe to presume that the ultimate purpose is only to peddle the mistaken notion that the security of the State comes first above all else and that warfare is the only solution to the raging conflict in the country.
Simply put, the Army does not provide and will not provide any context. Its speakers’ bureau exists only to justify the government’s waging of war without first looking after the welfare of people in the countryside where the conflict has been raging for decades.
The ridiculous concept that progress and development cannot come before peace and order has been the mantra repeated again and again by the Army in its radio programs over the years.
By development, I mean one that is genuine and sustainable, one that would benefit impoverished people not further enrich giant multi-nationals.
Take the case of mining companies that have laid waste to hundreds of hectares of forests and have displaced thousands of farmers. The Army has not explained its role why it is actually protecting these companies at the expense of peasants who are affected by the so-called “development” projects.
It is once again foolish, however, to expect that they understand their role for in the grand scheme of things; soldiers are taught to follow orders, not to understand, not to ask why, just to do and make people die.
Another classic example would be the issue of wages in the sugarcane haciendas. The Army rants only about the so-called “disturbance of the peace” by unions who organize to demand for higher wages yet they do not advocate about the just treatment of workers.
Indeed, how can the Army do so because it cannot bite the hand that feeds it? And that hand belongs to the economic elite who fund its counter-insurgency campaigns or wine and dine its officials.
Some people hope, I did once upon a time, that members of the AFP would become the warriors of the Filipino people that they are longed to be.
There have been some who did that but most remain on the “dark side” of the force, preferring to be unwitting or witting tools in the perpetuation of what is largely an unjust society that is governed by the strong but feeds on the weak.
The slain Lean Alejandro once said that it is impossible to reform something that has no conscience. He was referring to the Armed Forces.
Much has been made about the Aquino government’s commitment to good governance with the impeachment of Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez and the ongoing trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona. But the sitting president has yet to demonstrate his commitment to people’s rights by bringing to justice those who are responsible for the unabated killings during the dark reign of his predecessor.
Despite the various charges filed against the Arroyos and her henchmen for rights violations – from extra-judicial killings, enforced disappearances and for rape and murder – President Aquino has yet to issue a strong condemnation against the abuses allegedly perpetrated by members of the Armed Forces.
The impeachment of Corona might be, to the Aquino II government, proof of its commitment for good government. But even if Corona were impeached, there is much to be done in ridding the government of functionaries who do not even know whom they are supposed to serve.
A president and a chief justice can be impeached, but it is, indeed, hard to rid the bureaucracy of stupidity and the impunity that it breeds.
In the meantime, off to the cansi house I go.