I FIND it insulting to one’s intellect the military’s claim that the release of 43 health workers who were arrested in Morong, Rizal in February on suspicion that they were communist rebels was a sign that the Aquino administration was sincere in resuming stalled peace talks with the National Democratic Front (NDF).
The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) even announced that some officers were doing rounds of various military camps, apparently for a supposed “damage control” prior to the President’s decision to withdraw the charges against the so-called “Morong 43.”
As if we can now be relieved that our soldiers were appeased, and Mr. Aquino and all other officials in government as well as the general public can be assured that entire armed forces agreed to “toe the line.”
We are convinced that the detained health workers were left-leaning, but that does not mean that they are already part of the underground communist-led movement.
The government formally withdrew criminal charges against them because the pending case of illegal possession of firearms against them was weak. The government had already admitted that they were actually defects in the arrest warrants issued by the military.
True, the morale of some soldiers may be affected, considering that their perceived “enemies of state” once again finally got out of jail in time with the commemoration of the International Human Rights Day.
But we had the impression that the military sincerely believes in protecting human rights. This is one case that they could have erred and it is time to rectify the error.
But as I see it, the military was “satisfied” with the government’s decision, simply because the President wants it and they have to follow orders from the Commander-in-chief. Unless, of course, some of our soldiers think the entire armed forces is now a co-equal branch of the executive, legislative and judiciary.
The President already acknowledged the need to thoroughly review the move to release all political prisoners which, ironically, was proposed a conservative politician, former House Speaker Jose De Venecia.
Human rights groups said there were still hundreds of political dissidents languishing in jail, but they are being denied bail because they were charged with heinous crimes, which are no longer deemed political in nature if the courts were to try them.
We have also witnessed how political prisoners were deprived of their rights simply because they were tagged as suspected criminals and not as political dissenters.
The case of the Morong 43 will continue to drag even if most of the detained health workers are released.
The hawks in and out of government will continue to hound the President, knowing how some people could hardly distinguish a leftist –or a communist – from the armed partisan groups.
We have left-leaning organizations nationwide which continue to be threatened by the military and police because they are perceived to be the legal front organizations of the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army.
This explains why the peace talks continue to be derailed. There will never be a breakthrough in negotiations unless government realizes that the left is here to stay and they have to start talking to armed groups and convince them to return to the social mainstream.
There is really nothing to fear. Anyway, the state won’t wither away. Joel Paredes