The Western Command (WESCOM) has tagged the local coordinator of the Makabayang Koalisyon ng Mamamayan (Makabayan) as an active supporter of the New People’s Army (NPA), frequently visiting and providing its members lectures in their hideouts in southern Palawan

WESCOM commander Vice Admiral Rene Medina identified Absie Eligio, provincial coordinator of Makabayan, as a supporter who has been regularly attending NPA training-seminars “as lecturer somewhere in southern Palawan.”

He said the recovered Bayan Muna and Kabataan party-list campaign materials on May 3 in Barangay Culasian, Rizal town, by the Joint Task Force Peacock (JTFP) is “very disconcerting because it proves that there is indeed a link and collusion between the NPA and the Makabayan” coalition of 12 party-lists.

Medina said they are validating other information about Eligio, but former rebels have also identified him as the one giving them lectures.

3rd Marine Brigade (3MBDe) commander Brigadier General Charlton Sean Gaerlan, who is also the head of the JTFP, also confirmed they are verifying reports about Eligio before he becomes the “target” of their operations.

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“Actually, anyone who’s having things with the NPA will be checked, validated and monitored, and if find out na may direct link to the NPA, that is the only time they can be a target of our operations. But aside from that, puwede naman kasi na ang isang tao went there for other reason but for now we are still double checking kung ano ba talaga ang direct involvement nila,” Gaerlan said.

Eligio criticizes WESCOM red-baiting

In reply, Eligio on Monday said his inclusion as a “monitored personality” by the WESCOM “is a form of red-baiting,” which he considers as “nothing new.”

Red-baiting, he explained, happens especially at this time when the midterm election is approaching.

“Natatawa ako kasi parang di na rin siya bago, lumang tugtugin na siya pero kapag ikaw pala mismo ‘yong nasa threat, iba rin yong pakiramdam. ‘Yong nasa Manila ako, ina-advise sa akin ng friends [ko], huwag na akong bumalik ng Palawan. Iniisip ko kung di na ako babalik ng Palawan, kailan ako babalik? Kapag di na si President (Rodrigo) Duterte ang presidente?” Eligio said.

Eligio said red-baiting him started in July 2018, where his pictures were distributed in a community of fisherfolk he organized, stating that he is wanted.

He said he had filed complaints before the Commission of Human Rights (CHR), which advised him in December 2018 to file for a Writ of Amparo after his name was made part of the military’s “hit list.”

The writ is a remedy available to any person whose right to life, liberty, and security is violated or threatened with violation by an unlawful act or omission of a public official or employee, or of a private individual or entity.

Due to threats, Eligio said his movements in the province have already been “limited.”

He said his personal mobile number has already received a call from an anonymous person he does not know, but who claimed to be a former member of the NPA.

The Philippines has a history where critics of the government, leftist organizations, communists, and armed groups are all joint together and defined as one group, he added.

Eligio pointed out that it is a tool used to scare the critics of the officials and the policies implemented.

Eligio said they are saddened by the pronouncements of WESCOM that he thought should be focused on minding the protection of the West Philippine Sea.

“Nakakalungkot kasi I thought differently of the Western Command na parang ganito ‘yong kalakaran sa buong bansa pero iniisip ko iba na parang mas busy dapat ang Western Command sa pag-protekta ng West Philippine Sea, kung totoong komunista hanap nila, ‘yong mga Chinese, ‘yon ang komunista talaga,” he said.

Eligio said he has no idea how the campaign materials of the two party-list groups came to be part of the high-powered firearm that troops 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.

Eligio said that he is only sending materials to northern Palawan and he can’t remember sending to southern municipalities.

He said the WESCOM might have an issue if they personally caught the NPA posting the banners and posters while carrying the high-powered gun, but until then, it should not pose a threat against him or any other person seen with campaign materials of the Makabayan and the party-lists under its bloc.

“Unless makita nila na caught in the act ang mga NPA ay nagkakabit ng mga materials at saka unless makita nila na caught in the act na may armas tapos hawak-hawak ‘yong nga materials,” he also said.

Meanwhile, Kabataan party-list Rep. Sara Elago slammed also on Monday the inclusion of her party-list in the red-tagging of the military.

“Ito ‘yong aktibo na paninira at pagpapakalat ng misinformation at mga pekeng balita laban sa aming mga representasyon na tayo ay under attack dahil sa hindi natin inuurungan ang pagsisiwalat ng mga paglabag sa karapatang-pantao mismo ng mga uniformed personnel, nandiyan din ang panawagan na itigil ang mga pamamaslang na may kinalaman sa giyera kontra droga,” she said.

Elago said Kabataan has filed a case before the COMELEC against the political partisan activity being conducted by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

“Ang nagiging effect ng ganyang red tagging ay hindi naman para sugpuin ang rebelde kasi di naman rebelde ang mga ‘to. Wala silang mga armas, mga sibilyan na nagsusulong ng kanilang karapatan within our legal framework, napakadelikado nyan dahil nilalagay nya sa very vulnerable position itong mga sibilyan na ito na sila ay maatake sa pagsasabi na sila ay kaaway ng ating gobyerno,” Elago also said.

She also condemned the linking Eligio by the WESCOM to the NPA.

“Kung meron silang mga issues, di dapat ginagawa ngayon na parang trial by publicity, maglalabas ng listahan, mag-make ng certain complaints kasi ginagawa noon ay nilalagay sa panganib ang buhay ni Absie,” she said.

WESCOM supports localized peace talks

Meanwhile, Medina said WESCOM will continue to persuade and call its “brothers”, the members of the NPA, to return to the fold of the law and leave their “miserable life under the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF).

“New life, new hope — these are what we want and what we want to give our brothers who will choose to return to the government,” he said.

To date, the WESCOM commander said 91 former rebels have already received financial assistance through the local and national governments’ Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-CLIP).

Of this figure, 18 received P65,000 each as support package on March 18, 2019, through the Provincial Social Welfare and Development Office (PSWDO) and the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG).

“We will work hand-in-hand with our local government by sharing information and resources to maintain peace and security and finally put an end to the NPA that has been the negative stimulus for the longest time,” he said.

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