The US-Duterte regime and his peace spoiler ex-generals called it localized peace talks. This is their divisive replacement to the national peace talks between the GRP and the NDFP which gained headway until it was scuttled by Duterte in November 2018 because of pressure from his hawkish generals, comprador economic advisers and their imperialist masters. Still not satisfied with the breaking down of the peace process and their terrorist declaration, the Duterte regime issued E.O. 70 preceded by the creation of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC). Thereupon, the AFP/PNP are now in a rampage in an escalating campaign of mass intimidation and mass murder against critics and opponents of the Duterte regime’s reign of greed and terror specially in the countryside which is being currently orchestrated with psywar, surrender campaign, harassments, and filing of criminal cases based on trumped up charges.
Recently in the Cordillera region, spin masters from the 24th IB conjoined with the governor of Abra in conjuring the preposterous claim that “peace” and “development” is unfolding in Tubo, Abra. To justify this, they present a recycled padded list of surrenderees categorized as alleged “NPA regulars and supporters” in the two barangays of Amtuagan and Kili. They punctuated this accomplishment as a result of what they termed as “localized peace talks”. Clearly, for them ”peace”is defined as surrender and vilification. Failing to quell the New People’s Army into an inconsequential level which they initially targeted to do so before the the end of 2018, they moved their deadline to mid 2019 and realizing their folly, they finally extended it to the end of 2022, they are now targeting civilians. To make a show, the Charlie Company of the 24th Infantry Battalion led by 1st Lt. Jay Leniego and a certain Sgt. Castillo deployed its full force saturating the two barangays of Amtuagan and Kili, both within Tubo, Abra. With the help of local intel assets, military psywar masters float intrigues and intimidation by falsely accusing just anyone especially those that openly opposed their entry and continued stay in the two barangays, and subjected them to intense harassment and vilification. At the same time, they dangled bounty cash for those who would surrender. It is not surprising therefore that under duress and fear of their lives, some are compelled to submit in the vain hope of being “cleared” and be free to do their daily chores as farmers. While there are others, under the sinister coaching of corrupt intel officers who would entice their targets to “surrender” together with whatever antiquated or unusable firearms just to take advantage of the promised P65,000 for every firearms surrendered.
The hypocritical claim of “peace” and “development” allegedly unfolding in Abra is but a desperate cover up of the real situation of the province especially in Tubo. The fact remains that even the COMELEC and PNP have categorized the whole province as a hotspot. It is public knowledge that Abra is ruled by political dynasties and every election period is marred by violence. Private armed groups abound even under the noses of the PNP and AFP. Moreover, it is public knowledge that politicians including some women literally cohabit with military commanders assigned thereof. More often than not, police personnel assigned in Abra are inutile in the face of the open display of Private Armed Groups including no less than the mercenary Cordillera People’s Liberation Army (CPLA) serving as armed bodyguards of certain politicos. And it is common knowledge that Governor Joy Bernos has been going around Abra even before the election campaign accompanied by and in full regalia of the 24th IB military officials ever since they were deployed in Abra. The apparent leniency of PNP/AFP commanders towards these armed warlords is attributable to the shared need of the PNP/AFP for the implementation of the “localized peace talks under Oplan Kapayapaan where the active participation of the LGU particularly the governor is much sought.
Even the self-proclaimed ‘peace zone’ tag of Tubo being espoused by the elders aggrupation, “Dap-ay di Tubo” with its “Eight Points Agenda” prohibiting the stay of any armed groups within any of the barangays of Tubo is simply derided and ignored by the military. Led by its commanding officer, 1st Lt. Jay Leniego, they transformed the “Crusaders Divine Church” in Barangay Amtuagan as their headquarters. This act is a clear violation of the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) and Protocols of the Geneva Convention.
An epitome of a local bureaucrat capitalist, who utilizes and maximizes her elective position to advance her selfish economic and political interests, Gov. Bernos engages in doublespeak. Parroting the oft repeated line that Tubo townfolks are responding favorably to its “peace” and development initiatives is downright deceptive. Contrary to their claims, the province remains as one of the most neglected and lagging behind in terms of infrastructure development, not to mention the other basic services and subsidies needed by the farmers of Abra. Records of the DPWH shows that compared with the other Cordillera provinces, Abra has been alloted a bigger slice of funds for roads and bridges. And yet, the sorry state of roads, bridges and other basic services negate the “salawasaw” (falsehoods) of Gov. Bernos. Take the particular case of Tubo. In 2016, the amount of Php50 million was alloted for the opening of the Tubo-Besao Road (Phase 1). This section of the road will connect Abra to Mt. Province. It was contracted by her dummy contractor and subcontracted by another contractor-colleague in the province. The resultant accomplished road project is below par. “Kinurakot da!” was the collective desperate reaction of the people of Tubo. While on the Mt. Province side, construction of the connecting road using the same amount of funds has rapidly progressed. The stark difference of the actual accomplishment in the two adjoining road sections showcased what unbridled corruption and greed have done in the urgent road needs not only of Tubo but in the whole of Abra and Mt. Province. The people of Tubo fully knew the reason why. The contracted amount for the project was pocketed by Gov. Joy Bernos with the connivance of course by the contractor and concerned DPWH personnel. Before the election in 2016, the governor encashed the amount of about Php30 million and after the election but before the project was fully completed, the last balance of Php18 million was collected. The “Dap-ay di Tubo” are afraid to file a complaint because Gov. Bernos is close to the military and the governor actually warned them of reprisal if anyone lodges a complaint. The Phase II in the amount of Php100 million was released in 2018, for the improvement and concreting works of the same road. But again, according to reliable sources, the governor sought a contractor that would readily meet her 35-40% “take it or leave it” kickback before the final awarding of the contract.
It is grossly pretentious for the governor and the 24th IB to claim that in the face of wanton corruption, greed and denial of needed basic services, coupled with spuriously obtained lists of alleged “surrenderees” that they have obliterated the material basis for the people of Tubo to resist and fight back. You can round up villagefolks and intimidate them to sign that scrap of surrender paper. You can fool people sometime, you can intimidate them at other times but you can not fool and intimidate them all the time!