Massive militarization is intensifying warlordism and worsening peace and order situation in Abra

Last 1 May, troops under 1st Lt. Federico Morales shot and killed Levi Mamac, 22, a resident of Talampac, Lacub. A media blackout has been imposed regarding the incident and the police refuse to investigate despite the alleged admission made by soldiers who perpetrated the crime.

Ka DIEGO WADAGAN, Spokesperson
Agustin Begnalen Command
NPA Abra Province

The Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) have been bragging about the improved peace and order situation in Abra province because private armed groups (PAGs) have been dismantled and the Communist Party of the Philippines, New People's Army and the Cordillera People's Democratic Front will be "reduced to an inconsequential level" by the end of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's term.

The PNP and the AFP deployed hundreds of regular and special troops in the province for these objectives. The PNP Task Force Abra, organized in 2001 to go after PAGs has been augmented by forces from the Cordillera Regional Mobile Group and the PNP's elite Special Action Force. The Philippine Army's 503rd Brigade has relocated to Abra in 2008 and is focusing its operations in North-Central and Southern Abra and the borders of Ilocos Sur and Mountain Province. The elite 53rd Division Recon Company; and a company of the 77th "Cadre" Infantry Battalion are also deployed in the province.

The AFP has about 1,200 troops in the province, augmented by about 10 CAFGU Companies (civilian armed militia). The PNP has about 500 provincial policemen, augmented by some 200 troops from the regional and national PNP organization.

Recently, the PNP and AFP announced the deployment of an additional 800 troops to Abra as response to a spate of election-related violence, highlighted by the involvement of key political figures in the province such as the Luna clan.

The presence of PNP and AFP forces in the province do not improve the peace and order situation in Abra. They tolerate and support the warlords and are even the perpetrators of crimes and disturbances in communities.

In most incidents of the election-related violence, PNP personnel were either involved, within the scene of the crime but did not act or respond to calls for help. Such as when the Penarrubia police did not immediately respond to the alleged ambush of Ryan Luna's convoy.

In Tineg municipality, Cromwell Luna and his gang terrorize the population with the aid of his bodyguards provided by the PNP and the 41st Infantry Battalion. Local police are scared to go against the powerful Luna clan.

The 503rd Brigade's 41st IB and the 50th IB regularly commit human rights violations and criminal offenses where they are based or where they operate, and their Special Operations Teams spread deception and black-propaganda, through their civil-military operations. Operations of the 503rd Brigade use terror tactics such as indiscriminate bombing, artillery shelling, and strafing. Local folks who meet operating troops in the forests, fields or on the road are held captive for up to three days with meager food and no blankets on cold nights, and are harassed and accused of being NPA guerillas or supporters. Some are tortured and physically abused.

Communities live under virtual martial law: curfews are imposed, freedom of movement is curtailed, and peasants are required to obtain permits to go and tend to their farms and their work animals or to visit neighboring communities and the town center of Bangued. Cellphone calls and common community gatherings and activities are monitored. Community leaders or anyone who questions the activities and intentions of the AFP are harassed, photographed, and regularly "invited for questioning" or are "visited" in their homes anytime by soldiers. Soldiers circulate pictures allegedly proving the links between certain individuals and the revolutionary movement to justify their "surrender" campaign or to simply declare certain persons as "open targets."

Decadence proliferates and crimes abound where Philippine Army troopers operate. Families are destroyed because part of the military's tactics is to lure local women into illicit relations or one- night stands; the youth and older men are asked to join drinking sprees that end up in brawls and public disturbances. Local officials and elders who confront unruly soldiers are commonly disrespected and threatened with rifles.

In Mataragan, soldiers of the Charlie Coy, 41 st IB defecated in the community water tank. Enraged local leaders demanded the punishment of the perpetrators but were instead disrespected by arrogant army officers. Last May 1, troops of the Bravo Coy, 41 st IB under 1st Lt. Federico Morales shot and killed Levi Mamac, 22, a resident of Talampac, Lacub. The soldiers blamed a local drunk for the incident. The troopers hurriedly left the area last May 2 after an autopsy revealed the victim was shot in the head by an M16 rifle. Only the soldiers had M16 rifles. A media blackout has been imposed regarding the incident and the PNP refuse to investigate despite the alleged admission made by soldiers who perpetrated the crime.

Ironically, the PNP and the 503rd Brigade are heralded as the peacekeepers of Abra when it is they who are in cahoots with private armed groups ran by power-hungry warlord-politicians. People who immerse themselves in the communities will learn the truth about how these so-called law enforcers and peacekeepers are actually law-breakers and criminals working hand in glove with corrupt politicians and destructive large-scale mining firms.