Bayan Muna hits ‘mass surrender’ of alleged ex-rebels in Bulacan; asks help from CHR
MANILA, Philippines — Party-list group Bayan Muna has branded as mere “theatric” the “mass surrender” event supposedly involving former communist rebels in Bulacan last April 30 and sought the Commission on Human Rights for help.
In a letter to CHR Chairperson Jose Luis Gascon, Bayan Muna chairperson and lawyer Neri Colmenares complained of “yet another instance of the continuous efforts of the NTF-Elcac to vilify, demonize, and red-tag Bayan Muna, the members of the House Makabayan bloc, and progressive organizations.”
According to him, the April 30 event in San Jose del Monte purportedly organized by the Philippine National Police and National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Insurgency (NTF-Elcac) presented alleged ex-rebels who claimed they were recruited to the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) via organizations like Bayan Muna.
“We respectfully and formally bring to the Commission’s attention the April 30, 2021 ‘mass surrender’ event in San Jose Del Monte, Bulacan […] In this event, the PNP and the NTF-ELCAC presented alleged members of Bayan Muna and the urban poor organization Kadamay, tagging them as ‘Sectoral Front Organizations utilized by the Communist Terrorist Group (CTG) as their source of manpower in the conduct of street rallies and demonstrations or mass mobilizations against the government’,” Colmenares said in the letter.
He then underscored one of the surrenderers who asserted being a member of Bayan Muna for 37 years when the organization has only been in existence for 22 years.
“This recent theatric involved frivolous and unsubstantiated claims such as linking the red-tagged organizations to the ‘Communist Terrorist Group (CTG).’ One supposed [‘surrenderer’] even claimed to be a member of Bayan Muna for 37 years before ultimately ‘surrendering’, even if our party was only established in 1999,” Colmenares noted.
“Clearly, this is yet another instance of the continuous efforts of the NTF-ELCAC to vilify, demonize, and red-tag Bayan Muna, the members of the House Makabayan bloc, and progressive organizations, in their vain attempt to stifle dissent against the Duterte Administration,” he continued.
“We have also received reports that these fake [surrenderers] received government assistance as part of the Enhanced-Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-CLIP), in exchange for their role in this vilification campaign. The [surrenderers], we were also informed, are often coerced to sign documents stating that they condemn our organizations, in exchange for a token amount of aid,” he also said.
Colmenares likewise defended the party-list’s critical stance on the Duterte administration. He maintained that their oppositions to certain policies of President Rodrigo Duterte are based on principles and not a call to overthrow the government.
“As duly elected members of Congress, it is our sworn duty to forward our advocacies as we have promised to our constituencies. Our being in the opposition to Pres. Rodrigo Duterte is based on our principles, as well as our check and balance duty as legislators under the Constitution, and red-tagging organizations like us as ‘terrorists’ is an attack on dissent,” he explained.
Bayan Muna has been one of the often red-tagged organizations, as several government officials claimed that some of its members and affiliates have transitioned from being party-list members to full-blown fighters for the CPP-NPA.
While Bayan Muna has continuously denied such accusations, the government’s security cluster including NTF-Elcac asserted having substantial evidence to prove Colmenares and the others have links to CPP-NPA — although none has been presented to the public so far.
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