The 54th Infantry Battalion’s encampment in the communities of Mt. Province is militarization, and part of Duterte’s anti-people war of suppression. Like Duterte, the 54th IB intends to fool the people when it says otherwise. War on drugs, anti-terrorism, and now COVID control – Duterte has many names to the same anti-people war built upon the suppression of the people and the democratic and revolutionary forces at the forefront of the struggle against his dictatorial rule.
The fascist US-Duterte regime makes use of one thoroughly suppressive hand and another one, “softer,” “civil,” and “people-oriented,” but similarly anti-democratic. The 54th IB can only go so far in concealing this duplicity:
1. On one hand, focused and sustained combat operations from two weeks to a month, with intervals of around a month, with deployed troops combining forces of the infantry, DRC, PNP SAF and RMFB, and CAFGU numbering from a hundred to a thousand, and with costs amounting to a million pesos per day.
2. On the other hand, retooled community support program operations (RCSP) are shoved down to people’s throats. Its primary objectives are a.) widespread intelligence operations, surveillance, and psychological warfare against barrio activists and mass leaders; b.) surrender campaign with forced and fake surrenderees; and c.) recruitment of the impoverished masses to the intelligence network, CAFGU, and eventually PNP and AFP.
Bloated as it already is, the military budget allocation is further squandered on the deceptive RCSP operations, whose operatives conduct clearing and reconnaisance as well, and are ready to launch combat operations within the vicinity of the civilian communities anytime.
Since October 2019, the 54th IB has encamped in various parts of Besao and Sagada, and has recently established a detachment not far from the pasturelands, production areas and tourist sites of Sagada. All these as it forced barangay councils to issue copy-pasted persona-non-grata resolutions against the revolutionary forced led by the Communist Party of the Philippines.
Concurrent with RCSP operations, such detachments, checkpoints, and impositions of curfew hinder the movement of the people within and around their own community and work places. Encampment in the ili itself is a blatant violation of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) between the GRP and the NDFP.
Furthermore, it results in human rights violations and other disturbances characteristic of the fascist troops: theft, vices such as gambling and drinking, drugs, physical assault, harassment, and rape. How, then, is the RCSP any different from militarization when the people are vulnerable and made human shields of the fascist troops in its anti-people war? How, then, is the RCSP any different from militarization, when the people are made to bear the brunt of military presence, its economic, cultural, and social disturbances, its fascist rule?
Duterte has not concealed his aims at imposing a dictatorial rule. He has issued executive orders, and passed the draconian Anti-Terrorism Act Law to silence opposition and legitimize his attacks on the people’s rights. The bloodthirsty, US-trained military officials he placed in positions of authority are over willing to unleash fascist attacks on the people and secure the regime’s hold, as the bureaucracy is further militarized with the formation of Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (TF-ELCAC) down to the barangay levels.
While the anti-people war surges, the umili of Mt. Province must be resolute in waging the legitimate struggle for democratic rights against a fascist dictatorial rule. We must employ all means in demanding the pull-out of the encamped 54th IB troops and other forces, for the dismantlement of its detachments, and for the revocation of suppressive orders and laws.