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I can’t feel it

Julio Teehankee

Did you hear? That the controversial vigilantes are now being organized in Metro Manila. This development came in the wake of the sudden rash of killings of police and military men, purportedly a handiwork of the elusive NPA Sparrows. The murder of Capt. Eduardo Mediavillo seemed to have broken the proverbial camel’s back as the colleagues of the legendary cop (with two FPJ films to his credit) are now crying for blood. It was evident in the chants and placards present during the funeral rites. Their chants were, “Death to (Crispin) Beltran”, “Death to (Jaime) Tadeo”, and ‘Death to (Dr. Nemesio) Prudente”. Their placards shouted, “Litsonin si Maris (Diokno)”, :Maris, bakit ang taba ng pagmamahal mo sa komunista?” and “Fight communism!” The object of their ire are known leaders of militant cause-oriented groups and human rights advocates whom they suspect as sympathetic to the underground Left.

Aw c’mon…It was an uncanny coincidence that days later, Dr. Nemesio Prudente barely survived an ambush. Prudente is the president of the state-run Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP), which was raided earlier by Manila’s Finest on charges that the PUP campus was serving as a safehouse for the dreaded Sparrows. The police rounded up suspects specially those sporting moles on their faces. It seems that members of Manila’s Finest honestly believe that you can spot a Sparrow by the mole he sports. The suspected Sparrows were supposedly members of refugees from Leyte who went to Manila to escape the alleged atrocities of the vigilantes in their province.

I don’t believe it, this can’t be true! Now, some eggheads in the military and government are now praising to high heavens the vigilantes whom they see as a part of the “cure-all” solution to the 18 year-old insurgency problem. Some would even have the nerve to call it “institutionalized people’s power.” Sure, the ruthless killing of police and military men by the Sparrows are deplorable. In fact, any violence, especially among fellow Filipinos, is always deplorable and should be condemned by all sectors irregardless of political persuasion. But to “legitimize” the existence of vigilantes by issuing guidelines is a virtual admission that the police and military have failed in their task of protecting the citizenry, and maintaining or law and order. It seems that they now need civilians to act as a “buffer” between them and the Sparrows.

Does it really? Well let me try it…Who will determine who’s a communist or not? How will it be determined? Who will pass judgement on these suspects? Is it going to be “shoot first, ask questions later?” What will prevent these vigilantes from abusing their power? Will they be armed or not? With the local election coming in a month’s time, what will stop these vigilantes from engaging in partisan politics? With the present system of recruitment, who will check the background of these volunteers?

I can’t feel it! By the looks of it, the setting up of vigilantes whether armed or not, would complicate rather than arrest the already worsening situation in our country. The solution to the insurgency problem lies not in subscribing to the American doctrine of Low Intensity Conflict in which Filipinos are pitted against one another. It has been said that one cannot kill an idea with a bullet, one can only defeat it with a far more superior idea.

By Julio Teehankee

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