Duterte deploys more cops, soldiers to Negros, Samar, Bicol
President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the deployment of more soldiers and policemen to Samar, Negros Oriental, Negros Occidental, and the Bicol region to “suppress lawless violence and acts of terror” in these areas, according to a memorandum which was released by Malacañang on Friday.
Memorandum Order No. 32 also authorized intensified intelligence operations, and the investigation and prosecution of persons or groups behind “acts of lawless violence.”
“There is a need to reinforce the directive of the President to prevent further loss of innocent lives and destruction of property, and bring the country back to a state of complete normalcy as quick as possible,” it said.
‘Sporadic acts of violence’
The order noted that a “number of sporadic acts of violence have occurred recently” in several provinces.
Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo cited the ambush that killed former San Jose de Buan, Samar Mayor Ananias Rebato; the killing of a police official in Guihulngan, Negros Oriental; the massacre of nine farmers in Sagay City, Negros Occidental; and the ambush of a convoy carrying Food and Drug Administration Director Deneral Nela Charade Puno in Camarines Sur.
Under the directive, the defense and interior departments will coordinate the deployment of additional Army and police personnel to the areas cited in the order to “prevent such violence (from) spreading and escalating elsewhere in the country.”
In a TV interview, Panelo said the new directive should not be perceived as a “creeping martial law” but as a “support measure” against acts of terrorism.
In a speech during the inauguration of the Cavite Gateway Terminal on Thursday, the President sought to quell speculations that he would soon be placing the entire country under military rule.
“Why will I declare martial law? I can just arrest you and kill you if you don’t stop,” he said in Filipino.
This was after he threatened to deploy soldiers to the entertainment and gaming hub along Roxas Boulevard in Manila which, he said, had been “crawling with usurers and kidnappers.”
Exiled Communist Party of the Philippines founder Jose Maria Sison described the order as “part of the vicious de facto martial law and tyranny, preparatory to the formal proclamation of martial law, screwing up of the 2019 elections, Cha-cha [Charter change] for bogus federalism, and [the] establishment of fascist dictatorship a la Marcos.”
In Lucena City, militant fisher folk and peasant groups denounced the order as “an added arsenal in Duterte’s undeclared nationwide martial law” that could lead to more human rights violations.
It “will give further license and authority to the military and police to carry out the Red-tagging of activists, illegal arrests, illegal detention and military encampment in communities,” said Antonio Flores, secretary general of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas.
Fernando Hicap, national chair of the Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) said that through the order, the government was “subjecting the locals to intensified military abuses with impunity.”
Harass opposition candidates
At the House, Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate warned that the order was a “prelude” to Mr. Duterte’s nationwide declaration of martial law “that will not only further control our populace but can even be exploited to harass opposition candidates” in the 2019 elections.
Anakpawis Rep. Ariel Casilao said the directive would target ordinary Filipinos fighting for their basic rights. “Mr. Duterte now wants to declare the legitimate exercise of freedom of the people as a criminal act,” he said.
ACT Teachers Rep. Antonio Tinio said the order would “only lead to greater repression in the face of growing resistance to the administration’s antipoor and pro-oligarch policies.”
For Akbayan Rep. Tom Villarin, there was no need for the Palace to come up with the directive if Mr. Duterte was really concerned about sporadic violence. “[That] can be done through the normal chain of command and by relieving officers not doing their job,” he said.
Cristina Palabay of the human rights group Karapatan described the order as “a [strategy] used by desperate regimes to justify killings, illegal arrests and detention, torture, illegal searches, and other state-sponsored crimes against the people.”
Armed Forces of the Philippines spokesperson Brig. Gen. Edgard Arevalo defended the order and said it was meant “to ensure … that our people and our communities are safe.”
House Majority Leader Rolando Andaya Jr. said he believed the order was “based on verified information” that justified the deployment of more government troops. —WITH REPORTS FROM DELFIN T. MALLARI JR., MARLON RAMOS, MELVIN GASCON, AND JAYMEE T. GAMIL
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