The election posters of Bayan Muna that were recovered along with a high-powered firearm in a rebel camp in Barangay Culasian, Rizal town, were ‘planted’, party-list Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate said.
In a Facebook post by party-list on May 7, Zarate said the military is “trying again to red tag Bayan Muna and Kabataan party-list as it claims to have found campaign materials of the two groups in a New People’s Army (NPA) camp in Palawan.”
Zarate said the move of the military is part of efforts “to tarnish Bayan Muna’s reputation after a recent survey said that the group is leading among all party-lists for the 2019 elections.”
“Di talaga tumitigil ang AFP sa red tagging nito sa amin lalo pa at noong makita nila na nangunguna pa din ang Bayan Muna sa gustong iboto ng mga mamamayan na party-list batay sa dalawang magkasunod na Pulse Asia survey,” he said.
On May 3, the Joint Task Forces Peacock’s (JTFP) conducted an operation which resulted to the recovery of one .50 caliber (barret type) sniper rifle, 16 rounds of caliber .50 ammunition, suppressor for M14 rifle, assorted communist ideological books, dental paraphernalia, and assorted campaign posters of Bayan Muna and Kabataan party-list group.
“Hindi matanggap ng militar na hindi pinaniniwalan ng mga tao ang kanilang mga kasinungalingan kaya kung anu-ano ang iniimbentong pakana para siraan ang Bayan Muna at Makabayan bloc. Tulad ng ginawa nila sa Palawan na napakadali para sa kanilang magtanim ng poster ng Bayan Muna at Kabataan at muling nagtanim ng mga baril at kung anu-ano pa para gumawa ng istorya,” Zarate said.
Zarate alleged that based on the reports of their members in Palawan, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) took Bayan Muna and Kabataan poll materials from the common poster areas and planted them in this supposed “NPA camp,” Zarate added.
In addition, Zarate said, “the people should also look at the track record and accomplishments of their party-list” before they believe accusations against them.
He urged the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) to investigate the incident.
“We are urging the people to look at the track record of Bayan Muna and the service it has done for their welfare like the reduction of water and power rates as well as the increase in pension of SSS pensioners. They should not be misled by the AFP black propaganda. We hope that the COMELEC would decide on our electioneering complaint against the AFP and that they would be held accountable for their action,” Zarate said.
The Western Command has tagged Absie Eligio, provincial coordinator of Makabayan in Palawan as a supporter of the NPA.
Eligio told Palawan News that he has no idea how the campaign materials of the two party-list groups came to be part of the high-powered firearm recovered in Rizal.
“Baka doon pala napunta ‘yong nawawala namin na materials? Kasi nagkabit kami kunyari dito sa Puerto Princesa City, nag-distribute kami ng mga materials, biglang pag-check namin, nabaklas na ‘yong mga Kabataan party-list na mga material, baka ‘yon na,” he said.
Brigadier General Charlton Sean Gaerlan, Commander of the JTFP on Tuesday denied the allegations that they planted the posters in the NPA camp.
“Hindi naman [namin] gagawin ‘yon [na planted] dahil security lang naman kami pagdating sa election. Actually, hindi nga namin nahawakan ‘yon [ ang mga posters],” he said.
Gaerlan insisted that they are only doing their mandate to investigate individuals, groups or organizations with links to the NPA.
“Ang concern lang naman natin whoever groups supporting NPA, we will pursue them. I mean kahit sino, kahit isang ordinary citizen, elected official, partylist official or under the non-government organizations, once you are supporting NPA hahabulin namin kayo,” Gaerlan said.
As for Eligio, he said they have evidence linking the organizer to the rebels.
Gaerlan called on Eligio to clear his name with the Western Command (WESCOM).
“Kung may evidence kasi, may nagsabi o may nakapag-report ay hindi naman namin pwedeng i-deny ‘yon. Mas maganda na pumunta na lang siya sa amin kung gusto talaga niya na mas ma-clear ang pangalan niya. May peace talk naman tayo kahit NPA ka pa pwede ka makipag-usap sa amin,” he added.