Human Rights

On ‘Collateral Damage’, and A Letter From A PMA Cadet

Oplan Bantay Laya. Operation Freedom Watch. It is easy to figure out where alleged president Gloria Arroyo’s militarist hawks found inspiration. Anybody familiar with the US-led war on Iraq would agree that Arroyo’s “master plan” for the annihilation of communist rebellion in the country has a “war against terrorism” ring to it. This, of course, is no coincidence. President Bush had called the Arroyo government its major non-NATO ally, giving US$4.6-Billion in military and economic package and $30-Million in its local war against terrorism.

In AFP policy papers, the Communist Party of the Philippines and its underground organizations are called CTM, short for “Communist Terrorist Movement”, and its members “Communist Terrorists”. The US government itself labels the CPP, the New People’s Army and the party’s alleged founding chairman Jose Maria Sison as “terrorists.” For all intents and purposes, alleged president Arroyo’s all-out war against the CPP-NPA is part of the US-led “war against terrorism.” For all intents and purposes, the US is waging in the Philippines another of its “proxy wars.”

And where is the “war against terrorism” now?

Operation Enduring Freedom, it was called in Iraq. Freedom, however never endured in Iraq, if it ever came to the country in the first place. They were right about the word “enduring”, however, because the Iraqi people had been enduring horribly brutal attacks by US forces since day one of the occupation. In Haditha, Iraq last 19 November 2005, US soldiers killed as many as two dozen unarmed civilians as a reprisal for the killing of an American soldier in an ambush by Iraqi rebels. This was revealed only recently, by a congressman. By all indications, the massacre was hardly an isolated incident.

With Haditha, one cannot help but raise parallels to massacres in this country reportedy perpetrated by the Philippine military. Conventional armies often feel frustration over difficulty in fighting guerrillas, and often vent their frustration to unarmed civilians. Thus the reason for the US’ heavy use of the term “collateral damage,” more than in any other war US participated in (and there were lots of them). Incidentally, only recently we heard alleged human Raul Gonzalez use the term. “You can’t avoid collateral damage … Sometimes there are bombings and civilians might get hurt,” Gonzalez told the Inquirer.

With Gonzalez’s statement, “collateral damage” has now become “government policy.”

***
These are excerpts from a letter by a PMA (Philippine Military Academy) Cadet whose uncle was one of Oplan Bantay Laya’s victims:

I am Ronald Gian Carlo Lapitan Cardema of Calamba City Laguna. I am a Cadet in the Philippine Military Academy in Baguio City. I can continue writing this letter by means of harnessing the English Language fluently and proficiently. But I would rather start using our own language now because it is the only language in the world that all of us Filipinos own and we should be proud of it.

Ako po ay di katulad ng karamihan ng kadete dito sa PMA na walang pakialam o pilit na sinasarado ang pananaw sa katotohanan. Ang aking kamalayan sa di pantay na sistema dito sa ating bayan ay bukas at  lumalawig pa. Ako po ay nakikiisa sa inyong mga mithiin para sa isang maunlad na Lipunang Pilipino at  tunay na Demokrasya. Ang aking kaalaman sa tunay na Patriotismong Pilipino ay utang ko po sa aking dating paaralang pangkolehiyo, ang Unibersidad ng Pilipinas sa Los Banos, at sa mga pangangaral ng aking tiyuhing si Ka Noel “Noli” Capulong Sr.

Ang akin pong tiyuhin, na deputy regional coordinator ng BAYAN sa ST, ay walang pakundangang pinagbabaril ng mga aso ni GMA sa militar/police.

Ako po ay pabalik na sa PMA sa makalawa at nabahala sa lumabas na balita patungkol sa gusto ni GMA na “total annihilation” sa mga miyembro ng CPP-NPA-NDF at mga leftist groups. Ang kanyang kagustuhan na iyon ay isang patunay na wala siyang pakialam sa mga Pilipinong dapat pinaglilingkuran niya ng tapat. Buti pa ang mga Amerikano na nang-gahasa ng isang Filipina, di man lamang niya pinagsalitaan ng masama, pinoprotektahan pa nila ng pag-“teteknikal” sa batas natin at tila itinuturing pa ang panggagahasa na ito bilang isang “friendly fire”. Ito ay isa nang Acts of Aggression laban sa ating Lahi at Dignidad. Pero ang mga Kasamang Pilipino, na kababayan nya, na ang nais lamang ay pagbabago sa sistemang bulok ng gobyerno at Lipunan, ay gusto niyang ipapatay at ubusin. Ako ay naniniwala na siya na, ang pinakabaliw at walang hiya sa mga naging pinuno ng baying ito. Walang inintindi kundi pasayahin ang mga dayuhan dito habang naghihirap ang kanyang mga kababayan.

Sa kanyang pagdadagdag ng isang Bilyon sa pondong pampatay ng mga Kasamang Pilipino, siya ay lalong matatalo sa kanyang mga pansariling adhikain sa buhay. Sa kada isang mamamatay na Kasama ay lalong madadagdagan ang samahan. Ang mga aktibistang mag aaral, magsasaka, manggagawa, negosyante, taong simbahan, at propesyunal mula sa kabayanan ay sasama na sa armed struggle at  ng mga dating tahimik…

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