Philippine Army’s 5th Infantry Division out to sabotage peace talks

Spokesperson, Cordillera Peoples' Democratic Front

The Cordillera People's Democratic Front (CPDF) takes exception to the press statement of 501st Brigade spokesperson Capt. Adonis Banez that the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) troops now rampaging in the Cordillera region are deployed for peacekeeping purposes! The more the captain talks, the less sense he makes!

What he peddles as localized peace talks are actually summary surrender procedures of the revolutionary forces.

Capt. Banez does not comprehend what he is saying. Here are some points to consider: One, can the Provincial Peace and Order Council (PPOC), a creation of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) for its counter-insurgency campaign, be the proper forum for peace talks?

Two, there are no stalled local peace talks simply because no previous local negotiations ever took place. The "stalled local peace negotiations" are only in the imagination of the 5th Infantry Division. The peace talks that only took place were between the GRP and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) at the national level.

Three, while Capt. Banez praises the value of peace talks, he simultaneously keeps repeating his absurd call for the revolutionary forces to lay down arms even without resolving the root causes of the armed conflict. The purpose of peace talks is to thresh out social issues that drove the exploited Filipino masses and their New People's Army to persevere in revolutionary struggle. So any call for surrender is really comical and an insult to the intelligence of the revolutionary forces and the people.

Does Capt. Banez now realize why he makes no sense at all? His name-calling won't do him any good and only shows how good he is at parroting the lines of his superiors.

How can Capt. Banez claim that the soldiers' role in the Cordillera is keeping the peace? Military units turn villages into garrisons by sleeping under or inside houses, or by arrogantly occupying barangay halls, public school buildings and dap-ays. They do this to protect themselves from imagined attacks from the New People's Army. Residents have written and sent text messages to local newspapers complaining that the operating troops, while staying inside barrio, have even dared to court married women.

The military is being illogical when it insists that localized peace talks can solve current social problems. Can Capt. Banez or even 5th ID commander MGen. Rommel Gomez solve the basic problems of land reform and national industrialization, or the features of the national oppression of the people of the Cordillera?

The military's insistence on localized peace talks are meant to sabotage the previous achievements of national peace talks between the GRP and the NDFP, such as the Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL), the Hague Joint Declaration, and the Joint Agreement on Security and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG).

Adhering to the dictum that a lie repeated a thousand times becomes the truth, Capt. Banez parrots the lie that the troops of the 52nd Division Reconnaisance Company ambushed last 9 July were on a medical-dental mission. The truth is that those troops came from a barrio (village) where they were forcing local officials to sign an agreement to take part in the counter-insurgency campaign, and they were on their way to a conference with top military officers on how to force more local executives to become part of the counter-insurgency campaign.

Capt. Banez said the NPA violated international humanitarian law, but it is the military that has repeatedly violated human rights. Capt. Banez accused the NPA of recruiting minors, and to prove this absurd allegation, the military has produced alleged rebel returnees who are way beyond 18 years of age, if ever they were recruited at all.

The falsehoods peddled by Capt. Banez are not worth the paper they were printed on. They are part and parcel of an information campaign to demonize the revolutionary forces, and is one of the requisites for launching more military operations in the Mountain Province and the rest of the Cordillera. There are now more troops in the Mountain Province from the newly organized 86th Infantry Battalion, 54th Infantry Battalion, 50th Infantry Battalion, 77th Infantry Battalion, 52nd DRC, Special Forces, and the Scout Rangers.

Why is Capt. Banez calling for peace talks when his superiors are pouring more troops into the Mountain Province and the rest of Cordillera? Greater militarization will result in a greater number of abuses committed by the military. It is clear that the peace talks the military offers is just meant to camouflage their offensive operations and cover up the dismal failure of Oplan Bantay Laya II (national security program of the GRP).

The people of the Cordillera and the Cordillara People's Democratic Front (CPDF) will vigilantly face the divide-and-rule tactics of the AFP and GRP. The 5th ID is encouraging more Igorot youths to join the AFP and is reviving the bandit group Cordillera People's Liberation Army (CPLA) in Eastern Mountain Province, sure signs that it desperately needs more men.

The lies and deceptive tactics of the 5th ID have failed in the past and will surely fail again. These deserve to be thrown into the dustbin of history.