Why troops were deployed in Metro Manila
AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR By William M. Esposo
The Philippine Star 2007-03-22
Former President Fidel V. Ramos (FVR) helped conserve my calories. Last week, I requested Mae Gaffud — FVR’s secretary —to set me up for afternoon coffee with her boss. I wanted to congratulate President Eddie for reaching a milestone age of 79 and I also wanted to compare notes on the anti-insurgency program of the government.

However, even before we held the meeting, FVR had already bared his thoughts and feelings on the subject. The Sun Star quoted FVR last Saturday as saying: "The communist movement particularly its armed wing, the New People’s Army (NPA), can be crushed within three years but it cannot be done by the military alone. There should be an interplay and coordination of various forces and government agencies."

"Neither the outlawing of the communist party nor the disqualification of militant and left-leaning party-list groups would do much to the problem" Ramos was further quoted by Sun Star. He said that their members will only go underground. FVR espoused the tried and tested CHCD approach. CHCD is the classic anti-guerilla campaign that means:

1. The military will first CLEAR an area of armed groups.

2. Then the local government and police will HOLD the recently cleared area.

3. This is followed by CONSOLIDATION of gains.

4. And DEVELOPMENT with the involvement of the private sector and community. I fully agree with FVR’s anti-insurgency prescription. In fact, I expressed similar views in my March 4 "What was General Esperon thinking?" column. But I would still have wanted to meet with FVR and get his views on the controversy regarding the troop deployment in Metro Manila.

Since nobody was buying the explanation that the troops were undertaking community relations, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff Hermogenes Esperon shifted gears and proffered instead urban counterinsurgency as the reason.

However, the closer you examine it, the more you will be convinced that all this is election-related rather than a part of urban counterinsurgency operations. Major General Benjamin Dolorfino claims that it is a social cum health service to the community. We all know that social and health services are best left to the Social Welfare and Health Departments and the AFP cannot claim expertise in delivering both services.

Even Esperon’s latest rationalization pointing to urban counterinsurgency as the objective is preposterous because the job is best left to the police. Cops know the community better than newly assigned troops. Other than the police, the other best operators for urban counterinsurgency are the specialized military intelligence groups.

In the Metro Manila depressed areas where the troops have been deployed, one can expect the following:

1. Deep dissatisfaction with the government. Class E communities do not feel the so-called economic gains that the regime has been touting. Call center and OFW jobs are beyond the reach of the underclass.

2. Voters are more inclined to favor the Opposition, many of them Joseph Estrada masa diehards.

3. People have built-in fears of police or military presence as these communities have time and again been subjected to zonas. It is a sad fact of life that people in depressed communities get less of the lousy justice that Secretary Raul Gonzalez dispenses.

Troop presence in a depressed community can be considered a strong body language that emphatically and eloquently states: "Don’t you dare vote for the Opposition!"

The recent bombing incidents of Transco Transmission Towers could well be a parallel election operation. By no coincidence, these bombings are happening in areas that would fit to a tee your typical Mindanao cheating terrain — isolated, with poor media coverage and known to deliver "command votes" in past elections. These bombings would justify the strong military presence that could convert itself into a Garci type of election operation.

All these are consistent with the climate of impunity that characterizes the Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo regime. When threatened with removal, nothing will be illegal or immoral enough — regardless of the cost to the public purse or the public sensibility. For that matter — the regime is already being made to account by the international community for the killing of over 800 activists. What could be more illegal and immoral than that?

As the heat of the election campaign rises, expect to see a corresponding escalation of these illegal and immoral acts. The sewer cannot stink enough for those who have developed the instincts and manners of a rat.

Do we deserve all this? Of course we do!

This is the price we pay for choosing the lesser evil. This is the price we pay for our apathy. This is the price we pay for saying that let’s not rock the boat now that the peso and stock market are up.

This is the price we pay for not knowing our own history — for forgetting the lessons of another bloody era that we went through no more than three decades ago.

  Previous Columns:

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Election lawyer: PCOS critics should put up or shut up

All Excited by Pope Francis

A great disservice to P-Noy

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