Disastrous propaganda or brazen intimidation?
Professional members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police must be cringing in embarrassment after witnessing blunder upon blunder being committed by their organizations. First, the AFP made a list of University of the Philippines alumni that it claimed were “dead or captured” members of the New People’s Army. The list was released with the clear intention of reinforcing the AFP’s unilateral cancellation of a long-standing agreement that prohibits the military and police from entering UP campuses without justification and prior notification. It turned out that numerous names in the list are very much alive and are freely practicing their trade or profession as prominent members of society. The most horrendous mistake is the inclusion in the list of lawyer Alexander Padilla who was, at one time, the Philippine government’s peace negotiating panel chair in the peace talks with the Communist Party of the Philippines and NPA.
Second, the PNP made a media spectacle of alleged NPA members who supposedly surrendered to authorities because of disillusionment with the CPP-NPA. Netizens were quick to notice that, contrary to the lean physiques and meagerly-attired images of real NPA members, several of the masked surrenderees sported bulging bellies, wore expensive shoes and apparel, and one even had a car key dangling from his pants. Netizens had a frenzy creating laughable memes, the most sarcastic of which said:
“Tumaba ka ah. Nag NPA ka ba?”
Third, the AFP named colleges and universities it tagged as hotbeds of communist recruitment. This prompted four of the schools to close ranks and issue a joint condemnation against the military. Netizens ask whether the Philippine Military Academy and the Philippine National Police Academy should be similarly blamed for producing rebels who have made multiple attempts at overthrowing the government, and for its graduates who become corrupt and murderous violators of human rights.
Fourth, an army general made a blanket threat warning that individuals, groups, and organizations opposing the anti-terrorism law will face the “Day of Judgment,” and that “(v)ery soon, blood debts will be settled.” This prompted retired Supreme Court justices Antonio Carpio and Conchita Carpio Morales to denounce the statement as an act of terrorism, in a manifestation they filed in the Supreme Court.
What do these reprehensible incidents say of the President’s over-reliance on appointing military men in key positions of so many branches of the government? What do these shameful episodes say of the current government’s intelligence fund appropriations, which are at unprecedented multibillion-peso levels?
It has been a propaganda disaster for the military and the police. Instead of rallying people to support the government’s anti-communist campaign, it has driven civil society to fight a common cause with communist rebels.
The current military and police leaderships have not learned from the past, particularly the mistakes of the Marcos dictatorship in lumping together activist groups, opposition figures, civil society protesters, and communist rebels. As a matter of fact, the military appears to still be horribly keeping the Marcos-era dossiers of the dictatorship’s enemies, because the alleged NPA members listed have one thing in common: They were activists during the Marcos regime.
Law professor Antonio La Viña put it best when he said in a TV interview that the “surest way to drive the youth to the mountains is to prohibit them from becoming active members of activist organizations.” The CPP-NPA must be laughing at their fortune of having the AFP and PNP function as their unwitting recruitment arms. If it’s blundered propaganda, does the government care? One gets the feeling that it doesn’t care at all, because the real objective is to sow terror in the ranks of government dissenters. The purpose is not to win the hearts and minds of the public. These are intentional acts of intimidation. They are brazen moves meant to terrorize the people.
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