Redtagging divides the nation

"It is contrary to a whole-of-nation approach."


(First of two parts)

A whole-of-nation approach to solve the country’s ills is correct. Our societal problems are so enormous that it needs all of government and all of civil society to come together and address them. A disunited country, with anyone left behind, marginalized, or considered by the government as an enemy, will not be able to solve its problems.

Last Tuesday, Nov. 5, while presenting the AFP Modernization Program in a hearing at the House of Representatives, Major General Reuben Basiao, AFP Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence did exactly this—divide the country—by blatantly tagging many organizations and groups as communist front organizations.

Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay correctly observed: “The accusations made at the House of Representatives by military officials are baseless, mere hearsay that will justify their impending attacks on organizations. These humanitarian and religious organizations have a long and solid record of providing services to disaster-stricken and marginalized areas. Instead of acknowledging their efforts to reach out to as many Filipinos, this ungrateful and paranoid government views these advocacy groups as threats. It is useful to remember that during disaster situations where government was riddled with corruption and efficiency, it was these organizations who mobilized as first responders to victim-survivors.”

A counter insurgency campaign that redtags and attacks institutions, organizations and individuals is contrary to a whole-of-nation approach. Such strategies have never result in the defeat of revolutionary movements; in fact, they strengthen insurgency forces, drive people to take up arms against the government, and divide us so much that our problems could only worsen.

Let’s take poverty as an example. Poverty has been described as a beast with many hearts, a monster than can be slayed only through multiple efforts by many institutions and people done over time. You need the government to reduce poverty but civil society organizations and people’s movements are also needed.

To illustrate, Paghidaet Sa Kauswagan Development Group (PDG) in Negros Island is one of the best people’s organization in the Philippines. A nonprofit organization formed in 1987, it provides support to the local initiatives of rural communities in Negros Occidental.

PDG should be supported and encouraged by government. Instead, it has been harassed and attacked, accused with absolutely no evidence of being a communist front. One of its founders, Attorney Ben Ramos, was subjected to a smear campaign by the military and as a direct result of that was assassinated exactly a year ago this week. PDG expects to be raided any time, bracing for arrests, as the crackdown in Negros Island escalates. Nonetheless, their leaders, including Ben’s widow, my fellow Jesuit Volunteer Yesha Ramos, are courageously standing by with the people, continuing with their crucial work.

Inequality and social injustice is another such multifaceted monster. It has been the biggest cause of all Philippine insurgencies—from the Philippine Revolution of 1896 to the Huk rebellion in the 1950s to the Mindanao conflict that hopefully is on the way to resolution and yes the ongoing revolution being waged by the National Democratic Front, Communist Party of the Philippines, and the New People’s Army.

The government alone cannot right an unequal and unjust society. The basic sectors—workers, farmers, urban poor, indigenous peoples, women, etc—must be able to assert their rights so that new, better social arrangements can be achieved. Party-list organizations like Bayan Muna, Gabriela, ACT-Teachers, Anakpawis and Kabataan Party-list do exactly this and they should be welcome in Congress.

Going after the National Council of Churches in the Philippines and the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines is another travesty. Whether advocating human rights or simply ministering to the poor, the NCCP and RMP have made Christ present to the poor. That is not communist.

(Continued tomorrow)

Topics: AFP Modernization Program , Reuben Basiao , Cristina Palabay , House of Representatives , Paghidaet Sa Kauswagan Development Group
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