Philippines: Pullout of troops a tactical victory over AFP — Bayan

May. 09, 2007

MANILA, Philippines — The umbrella group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan hailed as a tactical victory the order of AFP chief of staff Gen. Hermogenes Esperon to pull out troops deployed in Metro Manila.

We have gained a short term victory. This is the result of pressure from various groups which include militant organizations as well as church and human rights institutions. The pull out should be permanent, said Bayan secretary general Renato M. Reyes, Jr.

The AFP should go back to their barracks and leave the residents of Metro Manila alone. The AFP has been accused of electioneering for administration bets as well as the abduction and killings of government critics. They are a threat to the community. Their presence in Metro Manila does not add credibility to the upcoming elections, Reyes added.

In Commonwealth, Quezon City, Armed Forces chief of staff Gen. Hermogenes Esperon joined AFP NCR command chief Gen. Benjamin Dolorfino in the unveiling of a day care center as part of the so-called civic projects of the military.

How ironic that the inauguration of the AFPs day care center happens in the same area where activist Jonas Burgos was abducted by elements of the Philippine Army, Reyes said.

Burgos was believed to be abducted by elements of the 56th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army in a restaurant in Ever Gotesco along Commonwealth Avenue.

Bayan said that the civic project does not and cannot mitigate the past and continuing crimes of the AFP. The military can build as many day care centers as it wants, but this cannot change the fact that they have been campaigning for administration candidates and abducting and killing activists, Reyes said.

But Reyes warned that the troops can easily be returned if no change of policy takes place. Bayan has filed complaints of harassment before the Commission on Human Rights. Partylist groups have also questioned the deployment before the Supreme Court.

We are thus seeking a permanent ban on the deployment of soldiers in Metro Manila. There is no war or invasion that merits the stationing of troops in heavily populated civilian centers. Even after the elections, the AFP should just stay in their barracks, Reyes said.

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