Mass shooting by drunk soldier bares evils of AFP’s RCSP in Bukidnon
BRGY. CALAPATON, KITAOTAO, BUKIDNON—The festivities during this village’s fiesta turned bloody when a drunk soldier from the 72nd Infantry Battalion’s retooled community service program (RCSP) ran amok and shot seven civilians following an altercation during an illegal gambling game on Sunday, October 17.
The intoxicated soldier was playing “hantak,” an illegal gambling game, when a quarrel ensued between him and a civilian. The quarrel escalated and turned bloody when the soldier suddenly pulled out his cal. 45 pistol and started shooting at the gathered civilians around him. Enraged by the cold-blooded act of violence, several civilians took turns beating the soldier.
The wounded, including the soldier who sustained minor injuries from the beating he suffered, were immediately rushed to a hospital in neighboring Kibawe town.
The soldier was stationed in nearby Brgy. Metebagao, and was only in Brgy. Calapaton with several of his fellow soldiers for the fiesta celebration.
Ka Isabel Santiago, spokesperson of the NPA’s Mt. Apo Subregional Command, said that the mass shooting “unmasks the evils of the RCSP, the so-called civic-military operations by the fascist AFP.”
“The RCSP, under the auspice of Oplan Kapayapaan, is actually a smokescreen. Its activities are nothing but a combined psywar and intelligence campaign against the masses meant to control their movement and harass and intimidate them to prevent their just demands for land and other economic and political rights.”
Brgy. Calapaton is only one of the 18 villages (out of 35 total villages) in Kitaotao which the 72nd IB currently occupies under the RCSP. The AFP has also forcibly conscripted paramilitaries such as the Bagani and Alamara in five of its villages.
A second-class municipality cut across by the Pulangi river, Kitaotao’s peasants and Lumad have suffered decades of feudal exploitation in the form of landgrabbing by landlords and the reactionary government, unfair division of rural produce and income, low peasant worker wages, onerous usury, and many more.
“Duterte’s RCSP is no different to previous civic-military versions such as Gloria Arroyo’s reengineered special operations team (RSOT) or Benigno Aquino III’s peace and development teams (PDT). They have always been a disruption to the lives of the peasants and Lumad in the countryside, frequently forcing them to attend ‘meetings’ which turn out to be ceremonies where their photos are taken and they are presented as ‘rebel returnees’ or sympathizers of the NPA.”
“In fact,” added Santiago, “the mass shooting incident is merely the tip of the iceberg in terms of the abuses perpetrated by the AFP’s RCSP.”
Several farmers interviewed by Pasa Bilis! revealed that, because the soldiers of the RCSP regularly calls on them to “report,” their daily activities are usually negatively affected. Nanay Lablab, a peasant mother of three in Brgy. Dalurong, Bukidnon, said that there was a time that she had to wait almost an entire day for the soldiers who told her to meet them at the barangay hall. “I wasted a day and all they asked me was if I was able to monitor any presence of an NPA unit or if I was recently contacted by the comrades. Such a nuisance!” she fumed.
Another peasant mother, Arlene, in Brgy. Balangigay and a peasant father, Bernie, in Brgy. Kitobo reported that the soldiers forcibly took their cellphones, scrolled through their messages and calls register. “And they didn’t return my phone!” Arlene said.
Kristian, a Grade 11 student, said that a soldier accosted him while he was buying groceries and bread in Brgy. Dalurong. “He was very aggressive. He kept accusing me that I was buying for comrades, even though I only bought a couple of sardines and P20 worth of bread.”
Worse, peasants and Lumad masses in several villages in Kitaotao reported that since the 72nd IB’s RCSP started to occupy their communities in February this year, anti-social activities such as gambling and drunkenness—mostly by the soldiers themselves—have become rampant.
“At first they seemed harmless, some soldiers were even helpful,” Junie, a farmer from Brgy. Balangigay said. “But after several weeks, maybe they got bored or tired, they revealed their true colors. They started drinking until the wee hours of the morning. They encouraged gambling such as cockfighting. Now we treat them like they’re not here. When they call on us to report to them, we simply refuse to come.”
“This recent incident reminds us of the inherent fascism of the AFP. However much they try to deodorize the stench of their anti-people tradition, AFP troops will always be considered the evil enemy by the millions of peasants and Lumad in Bukidnon, North Cotabato, Davao del Sur and elsewhere in the region,” Santiago concluded.
It can be remembered that in November last year, Restituto P. Baguer, spokesperson of Pambansang Katipunan ng mga Magbubukid in Southern Mindanao, reported that in the mere two weeks of the AFP’s intense military operations, 16th IB soldiers gravely victimized at least 21 civilians in the towns of Kitaotao and Antipas in North Cotabato.