Residents of Tampakan Municipality, Local Government Officials and Military Officers met at the Bishop’s Residence, Koronadal City, on 4 March 2009 to clarify certain issues pertaining to peace and order and to restore harmony among persons concerned.
Issue No. 1. Presence of military personnel in some barangays. The sudden presence of military elements in several barangays caused apprehension among the residents. They asked whether military operations in their areas are strategies to secure Sagittarius Mines, Inc. (SMI).
Answers by military officers. Military operations in conflict-affected zones are normal activities. Such operations are, therefore, not to secure the interests of SMI.
Issue No. 2. “Pulong-Pulong”. Assemblies were conducted by junior military officers and non-commissioned personnel wherein the military speakers tagged the Catholic Church and other religions as NPA supporters. GKKs/BECs, in particular are infiltrated by the NPA. Mining advocates are NPA supporters.
Comments. Tagging the several churches as NPA supporters is “ irresponsible”. Active members of these churches are easy targets for harassment on even liquidation by fanatical anti-NPA groups. Making generalization is illogical. Suspected supporters should be thoroughly investigated and if, warranted, should be hailed to court on charges of rebellion. In the absence of solid proofs the officers in the field should retract their malicious accusations. The Civil Military Officer commented that personally he does not believe that the Catholic Church or any religion would join the NPA because “communism does not have religion”.
Another comment. Tagging/labeling party list members as NPA supporters is outside the ambit of military activity. Soldiers are supposed to be apolitical, non-partisan, neutral. Why are they campaigning against party list candidates? Gov. Fuentes clarified that being a communist is not a crime. But supporting illegitimate armed groups is a different case. Complaints against military abuses should be brought to the attention of the Governor for appropriate action.
Issue No. 3. Baranagay Defense System (BDS). BDS are in several barangays. Questions: Who organized the BDS? Are the members armed? Who supplies the arm? “Is there a guideline in the implementation of the BDS especially on the use of firearms?”, asked Vice-Governor Ogena.
Answers. Captain de la Cruz answered that Col. Rainer Cruz, the Brigade Commander of the 1002nd instructed him to organize BDSs. He started in Maasim, Kiamba and Maitum. Col. Santiago clarified the military cannot give firearms because their supplies are limited, but he added we will let the community defend itself against bad elements. Capt. De la Cruz said the people will use their own firearms. Brgy. Capt. Sicharon of Pulabato clarified the barangay officials, not the military, handle the BDS. Only the tanods will carry firearms.
Issue No. 4. Intelligence performance. Residents questioned the performance of intelligence officers. They were not able to prevent the attack on the PNP station by the NPA.
Both 1st Lt. Dennis Nolasco, CO Bravo COY based in Tampakan and Gov. Fuentes admitted failure in intelligence operation.
Issue No. 5. Survey/Census. Why where household surveys conducted? How come there were very few respondents when announcements were made that surveys would be general? Is profiling the real purpose?
Answers. Lt. Nolasco answered that the survey must include everyone in the barangays but due to limited resources they had to conduct random survey. Col. Santiago said to find out who are the former NPAs, new faces, etc. Rene Pamplona retorted Col. Santiago’s answers did not reflect the questionnaires in the survey form. Gov. Fuentes frankly told everyone the real reason is to find out “who supports the NPA.” Fr. Catedral suggested transparency in surveys.
Bishop’s clarification. Bishop Dinualdo, facilitator of the dialogue, clarified for the benefit of everyone the Church’s mission of integral evangelization, the proclamation of the good news of salvation from sin, especially greed, and of liberation from all oppressions: human, socio-cultural, political, economic, and ecological. False accusations are unjust. Curtailment of human freedom is unjust. Destructive mining is unjust. We must fight injustices!
The bishop then asked everyone whether all 5 issues were satisfactorily clarified. If yes, he asked “Friends na ba tayo?” everyone shouted “Yes”.
Civilians were led by Gov. Fuentes, Vice Gov. Ogena and Vice Mayor Relly Leysa of Tampakan.
Col. Daniel Soriano, Deputy CO, 1002nd Bde led the military contingent.
Priests present: Frs. Angelo Buenavides, Romeo Catedral, Rene Dasilao, Ariel Destora, Rey Joloro, Reynaldo Mission and Bobby Parreño.
Fifty representatives from Tampakan. (From the report of Fr. Angelo Buenavides).
“REPENT, AND BELIEVE THE GOOD NEWS” (Mk. 1:15)
Source: Communication from the Bishop (No. 523, 09 March 2009)