By Benjamin Sumog-oy
In Defense of Human Rights
and Dignity Movement .
GENERAL Santos City — I find it appropriate to state, at the outset, that it is dangerous for us to allow the military to succeed in its current social experiment whose ends are clearly to stifle dissent and stall the free exercise of the people’s civil and political rights which are prominently enshrined in the 1987 Constitution.
If we remain silent, and do not raise our voices in protest against what it is doing now to Romulo O. Solivio, former Municipal Mayor of the Surallah and incumbent member of the Sangguniang Panglalawigan of the Province of South Cotabato, we will soon see the military wagging its oppressive wand to sow fear on the people, cow the opposition and cripple the activist and progressive movements in this part of the country.
Our silence in the midst of this dubious act of making Romulo Solivio as a tool for this dangerous social experiment will send a wrong signal to military officials who would be emboldened and encouraged to continue in their pursuit to trample upon our constitutional and God-given rights.
Thus, we need to raise our voices against this military experiment before the effects of the military’s psychological warfare will invade deep into public consciousness, and make us live our fears and sufferings. We should not allow this to take its roots on our consciousness and our beings. Otherwise, we will all be reduced into robots, without a mind of our own. This is also very dangerous for all of us.
Today, Board Member Romulo Solivio, or Mulong as he is fondly called by his friends and allies, is reported to be in constant hiding after he was falsely tagged by a military official to be a member of the CPP/NPA (Communist Party of the Philippines / New People’s Army)
Because of this, Mulong Solivio is also reported to be seriously worrying about the security and safety of his wife, children and grandchildren.
As it is now, Mulong Solivio is, clearly, a victim of military officials’ limited view of the political spectrum. Politicians who aligned themselves with capitalist forces are considered desirable, while those who accompany the basic communities and sectors in their struggle for dignity and prosperity are automatically tagged as members of the CPP/NPA.
This frame of mind is quite irritating because until now, when information is supposed to be just in our fingertips, the military is still clinging to its old moronic view of things, putting to serious question the kind of education and training that they were made to undergo while inside military training institutions.
A few days ago, Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc, commanding officer of the 33rd Infantry Battalion, based in South Cotabato, publicly announced that Mulong Solivio is a member and an active supporter of the CPP/NPA. Accordingly, Mulong is considered by the military as one among the many public officials in the country who is supportive the CPP/NPA’s revolutionary struggle.
For this reason, Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc reportedly vowed before the public that he will soon put Mulong behind bars. This promise, no matter how off-tangent, is not just an empty word. Lt. Col. Cabunoc can really do it now to Mulong and to any members of his family, considering that Mindanao is now under the state of martial law.
The reason for this is obvious. But, let me state, at this juncture, that this public pronouncement of Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc is already sending a shiver of fear not only into Mulong Solivio, but also into the collective spine of social activists, human rights defenders and other progressive development workers not only in South Cotabato and General Santos City, but also in the whole Socsksargen’s economic corridor.
The whole of Mindanao is now under the state of martial law. At the same time, the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus is also suspended in the whole Island of Mindanao.
In effect, this means that any military official can have Mulong Solivio and the other members of his family arrested and put behind bars anytime even without any warrant of arrest issued by a competent court. This also means that the military can undertake searches of Mulong’s household and business establishments, and that of any other members of his family, without a search warrant.
Duterte’s martial law is more dangerous than the martial law of the fallen Philippine dictator.
While martial law and the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus are already intrinsically dangerous to activists, human rights defenders and progressive development workers, like Mulong Solivio, what makes them doubly dangerous is the absence of gallant lawyers and church workers who are always ready to defend hapless individuals against the abuse of state’s coercive forces.
It is my view that social activists, human rights defenders and progressive development workers were far better off during the time of Marcos than the time of Duterte.
For instance, in General Santos City and South Cotabato, they have had Attorneys Dominador Lagare, Vicente Mirabueno, Larry de Pedro, Rufino Banas, Felix Calatrava who were always ready to defend their rights and shield them from military abuses during that dreadful period of the fallen dictatorship.
The Integrated Bar of the Philippines, then, led by Atty. Rogelio Garcia, was so active in the defense of the people’s constitutional rights. The IBP has a regular program where military abuses were exposed and publicly condemned. Even Fiscal Franklin Gacal was also active in the campaign against military abuses during that most dreadful period of the Marcos Marcos Martial Law. Since he is a government prosecutor, Fiscal Gacal was so effective in his opposition against military abuses.
We do not have this kind of lawyers now. Sadly enough, even the local chapters of the IBP have been reduced into a neighborhood associations, bereft of any advocacy for the defense of human rights and the civil and political rights of an individual.
During the Marcos Martial Law, the South Cotabato Alliance for Peace (SCAP) headed by Bishop Reginald Edward Vincent Arliss, C.P., of the then, Prelature of Marbel was very active in the campaign against military abuses..
During the Marcos’ martial law, Fr. Loreto Viloria, editor of Concern, the official paper of the Diocese of Marbel, was very active in exposing military abuses as they happened, and was not afraid to visit military camps even during the wee hours of the night in search for the missing persons who were suspected to have been abducted by the military.
In addition, Mike Sueno, the only opposition mayor during martial law also entertained no qualms in publicly exposing and leading rallies against military abuses.
We do not have this kind of lawyers, church workers and public officials right now. This makes the Duterte martial law more dangerous than the Marcos martial law. The military can just trample upon the rights of an individual, without any kinds of a deterring opposition.
This is, perhaps, the reason why these current threats against the life and liberty of Mulong Solivio are welcomed by the people with alarming silence. Nobody is taking the cudgel for him, not even his fellow officials in the Province of South Cotabato.
The public announcement by Lt. Col. Cabunoc on the complicities of Mulong Solivio with the CPP/NPA becomes even more dreadful not only because Mindanao is now under the state of Martial Law, but also because of the fact that it was Lt. Col. Cabunoc who made that public pronouncement.
He was a former Philippine Army spokesperson, thus, he holds a wide sphere of influence within the military. Thus, he can undertake the arrest and imprisonment, and even, God forbids, the assassination, of Mulong Solivio, with the full support of the military hierarchy. (to be concluded)
(Benjamin Sumog-oy is Action Officer of In Defense of Human Rights and Dignity Movement in General Santos City. -Mindanews)