OUR attention was caught by a resolution in the city council to support indigenous peoples (IPs), and another resolution passed by a law enforcement committee in its fight against a 50-year-old insurgency problem.
In Resolution No. 087, s.2021, Baguio Councilor Art Allad-iw requested the Department of Education for funds to be used by teachers who will seriously focus on producing research material and publications aimed at educating the public about IP cultures, heritage and way of life.
To recall, even while Indigenous Peoples Education (IPEd) has been included as an added program for the DepEd, I am not aware if this has been given adequate attention by department officials.
While Education Secretary Leonor M. Briones issued on January 18, 2017 Department Order 03 or the Multiyear Implementing Guidelines on the Allocation and Utilization of the IPEd Program Support Fund (PSF), its implementation has not been felt.
After I came across Councilor Allad-iw’s measure, he said that with a regional budget of P10,768,393,000, local DepEd officials can slice a small part to fund projects for IPEd, including an office dedicated for the program and headed by a section chief.
The city council resolution is timely as Councilor Allad-iw cited IPs, particularly the Igorots of the Cordillera who were recently subjected to ridicule and falsehoods that were even printed in learning modules published by DepEd itself.
With an IP regional director in the person of Dr. Estela L. Cariño, perhaps DepEd could push through with its workshops on the Indigenous Learning Systems (ILS), training of teachers and school heads for IPEd projects, consultations with IP elders and culture bearers with the observance of health safety protocols, of course.
Emergency situations dictate priorities but at a time when the President in Malacanang, along with the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) were grappling for precious time and resources to secure for the nation the vaccine to fight COVID-19, the Regional Law Enforcement Coordinating Committee in the Cordillera was passing a resolution against “known left-leaning personalities in the government, media and other entities.”
Under RLECC Resolution No. 04, S.2021 signed by 45 regional executives, it called for law enforcers in the Cordillera to adopt the “tokhang” style in the “war on drugs” for their fight against the armed communist movement.
In “tokhang” anti-drug operations, police officers would knock on houses of drug personalities, convince them to surrender and go into drug rehabilitation. If the “tokhang” operation goes wrong as it usually does, someone is killed.
The problem in such an operation is that the RLECC measure provides the law enforcers a license to use unnecessary force similar to the extra-judicial killings in the anti-drug campaign.
Under the RLECC resolution, government teams will knock on the residences of suspected “leftist” personalities, supporters of suspected leftist organizations, including government personnel and the media.
In doing so, the RLECC already red-tagged the persons on their list, approach the activists in their houses, and ask them to return to the fold of the law as if they did something wrong.
Surely, a confrontation follows because aside from the harassment and violation of the person’s right to privacy, the suspected “leftist” will deny the allegations of the intruders which could lead to more severe police action.
The RLECC resolution which will be forwarded to the Regional Peace and Order Council (RPOC) and LGU members for further approval is not in consonant with the Philippine Constitution.
I believe that many members of the RPOC and the LGUs that the media has been supporting ever since will reconsider their positions and reject the RLECC resolution since it runs counter to Constitutional freedoms.
That could be the reason NCIP Regional Director Atty. Marlon P. Bosantog did not sign the resolution because he knew that it violated citizens’ freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution.
It was also the reason Atty. Romel P. Daguimol, regional director of the Commission on Human Rights, withdrew his signature because the RLECC resolution was inconsistent with the position of the CHR, since concerns with “Oplan Tokhang” and of red-tagging were left unaddressed.
In withdrawing, RD Daguimol said, “We continue to condemn terrorism, as well as the use of armed struggle to topple the government. But we continue to stand that activism is not a crime. Our people should be free to express legitimate dissent and grievances for the government to act on.” The other signatories should do the same.
Even Department of Justice Sec. Menardo Guevarra repeatedly stressed that “membership in the Communist Party of the Philippines does not constitute a crime.” And being a leftist is far from being a terrorist unless criminal acts are evidently committed.
As long as “activism remains in the realm of ideology, there is nothing to be alarmed about,” Sec. Guevarra said. Mere membership in a left-leaning organization is not a crime. I think, friends in the National Bureau of Investigation are one with Sec. Guevarra, their boss.
As for the media, their role is simply to write the information that comes out of the mouth of their news source. Writing about the statement of an interviewee should not be mistaken as support for the news source whether he is leftist, rightist or centrist.
By the way, the media covers the offices of most of the signatories in the RLECC resolution and write about their projects, aside from attending news conferences and kapihans that they arrange.
The media cannot even be red-tagged because they are not “reds” in accordance to how the police and the military see them, unless they are color-blind. The media is armed with ideas, pens and paper; not guns, unless one is planted.
I admit to being part of it long before the RLECC came into existence. So maybe the media should just be left as it is – friendly and harmless. After all, as one police intelligence officer said many times before – “if one wades, walks and quacks like a duck, then it must be a duck.”