Army major harasses Iligan students attending forum on Balikatan

But the Army major at Wednesday’s forum at the mini-theatre of the Mindanao State University-Iligan Institute of Technology (MSU-IIT) in Iligan City, did more than what his counterparts in the past did: according to a press statement of the US Troops Out Now! – Lanao Coalition (Out Now! – Lanao), Army Major Benedicto Manquiquis, moved to the center from the back, took the microphone, intrroduced himself, lambasted the organizers for allegedly “conditioning the minds” of the students to “hate government,” and not content with having said his piece, sang “Internationale,” the communists’ anthem, after saying he was surprised it was not sung at the opening of the program.

In a telephone interview, Prof. Geoffrey Salgado, Dean of the College of Arts and Social Sciences, told MindaNews that in his 33 years of teaching at MSU-IIT, it was the first time an incident such as Wednesday’s happened.

“Something like this did not even happen during martial law,” Salgado said.

Salgado said Maninquis “accused us of ‘brainwashing the students to hate the government and the United States.”

“Then he sang ‘Internationale’ with Pilipino lyrics after he asked why we did not sing that instead of Lupang Hinirang,” Salgado said.

Maninquis, MindaNews learned, is the Civil Affairs Officer of  the 4th Infantry Division of based in Cagayan de Oro but last week was a lecturer in a media briefing in Pagadian City which is under the Army’s 1st Infantry Division.

Salgado, who sat in front with speaker Jessica Tulloch, a Chicago volunteer with the United Methodist Church …immediately told Manquiquis, “these are IIT students. They are very bright.They cannot be brainwashed. We are merely presenting the facts.”

The estimated 200 students applauded. One of them addressed Manquiquis, telling him the forum provided an important, alternative source of  information on the issue that opened their eys to what is happening in the country, the press statement of Out Now! – Lanao read.

The statement noted that Manquiquis and his companions “infiltrated”  Wednesday’s forum on the RP-US Balikatan, organized by the History Department and the Historical Society of MSU-IIT.

Balikatan is scheduled on February 18 to March 3.

Salgado told MindaNews they found Manquiquis misrepresented himself as “student ni Ma’am Baena” to gain entry in the campus.  He said they will file complaints against him, including intruding on an eudcational activity and insulting the integrity of the activity and institution.

He said Manquiquis violated academic freedom.

Kristian Mark Urbano, Public Information Officer of the Coalition told MindaNews that after the 1 to 3 p.m. forum, Manquiquis was interviewed by radio station DXIC where he allegedly “accused Salgado and the League of Filipino Students of being communists.”

“Manquiquis and others were also present yesterday during a student picket and candle-lighting at MSU-IIT against Balikatan exercises, taking pictures and video of the students engaged in their peaceful activity,” the February 13 statement of Out Now! – Lanao said.

The group said they observed the presence of military personnel during the discussion fora at MSU Marawi last week.

“Yesterday, anti-Balikatan posters were taken down from lightposts of barangays Fuentes to Camague, also in Iligan,” it said.

“These actions of the military intelligence are clearly a form of harassment against patriotic Filipinos who are actively campaigning against the Balikatan exercises,” said Br. Roseal Cabatcha, TOR, convenor of Out Now! – Lanao.  “We are open to the presence of the military during our activities in the name of healthy debate and discussion, but the actions of Manquiquis and his personnel demonstrated that their purpose is to disrupt the activity and create chaos, at the same time conducting surveillance on patriotic students and faculty,” he said.

Out Now! – Lanao denounced the actions of Manquiquis and other military intelligence as “sending the message that open discussion and debate of issues of national importance are not permitted.”

Manquiquis could not be reached for comment. But the Philippine Information Agency on  February 12, reported that he was among those who conducted a media briefing on the counter-insurgency program of government at the PIA regional office in Pagadian City last Saturday, February 9.

“Twenty media practitioners attended the forum focused on the topic ‘The Continuing Deception of the CPP-NPA-NDF’ and the strategies they employ, including their claims of a better life with the ideology of communism,” the PIA report said.

The PIA reported that “Major Manquiquis, one of the lecturers,  mentioned that in Palawan, there is a place called Vietnam Village where natives from North Vietnam endured the hardships of traveling the rough seas and risked their lives to find refuge in our country. Why then should we bargain democracy with communism?”  (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)