COMMENTARY: Am I Being Red-Tagged?

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 07 November) — Red-tagging appears in many shapes and forms. That you are being red-tagged may not be made public, but this type of clandestine red-tagging makes it even more dangerous.

On November 5, 2020, my fraternity brother in the Beta Sigma Lambda fraternity and sorority, P/Col. Mike C. Odejerte posted in my messenger account the spliced video clip of the testimony of red-tagging witness, Jeffrey Celiz, alias Ka Eric, a purported former high-ranking member of the CPP/NPA (Communist Party of the Philippines / New Peoples Army).

Ka Eric, who is in the drug-list of President Duterte, was presented, as a red-tagging witness, by Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade, Jr., prime mover in the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTFELCAC) in the recently-conducted Senate hearing on red-tagging, which turned to be actually amplifying red-tagging in the country. What do we expect from Ping Lacson, anyway?

The video clip, however, was maliciously and falsely spliced, captioned and redesigned to make Akbayan Senator Risa Hontiveros appear stupid, and as if she has something to do with the CPP/NPA.

The fabricated video clip is being distributed online by Senator Risa’s regular trolls, and was posted on my messenger by P/Col. Mike Odejerte, of Region XII police headquarters, proving that the police establishment is, indeed, a purveyor of fake news.

Senator Risa Hontiveros was the only Senator who grilled hard Secretary Hermogenes C. Esperon during the Senate Hearing on red-tagging presided by Senator Panfilo Lacson.

Esperon is the former chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), and is now serving as a security adviser in the Duterte Cabinet.

If I were to make my own assessment, however, it was Gen. Esperon  who appeared stupid during that grilling by Senator Hontiveros. In fact, General Esperon in many instances was throwing handles in wild abandon when confronted with so many factual issues by Senator Hontiveros.

Nevertheless, after posting the above-mentioned maliciously spliced video clip on my messenger account, P/Col. Odejerte proceeded to ask me in my messenger: “Kumusta ka, Brod?” (How are you, Brod?)

I can easily sense his mental track in sending me such video clip and in asking such question thereafter. So, I responded by posting a link whose contents elucidate on the stand of Akbayan on red-tagging, and which also show where Akbayan locates itself in the Philippine political spectrum.

This link, which I posted by way of riposte on P/Col. Odejerte’s malicious act and loaded query, also explains how Akbayan is different from the CPP/NPA, and why it is not a part of this revolutionary movement.

In addition, I also posted another link which shows my inclusion in the order of battle of the CPP/NPA years ago, together with Etta Rosales, Walden Bello, Joel Rocamora and many other prominent personalities in the activist movement.

After I posted such links where I put some annotations to put them in proper perspective, P/Col. Mike Odejerte responded by asking me this question, which I reproduce unedited “Brod, what if maging communist govt tayo ano role/position sa govt mo?” (Brod, what it we will become a communist government, what will be your role/position in that government?)

Clearly, this question is impregnated with meanings. It proceeds from a premise that I am a communist or a part of the CPP/NPA. Such a question, though innocently crafted, is revealing of the frame of mind of my fraternity brother, P/Col. Mike Odejerte. He thinks of me as a communist or a member of the CPP/NPA!

Let me collide head-on on this issue. This I will do, not because I want to pick a quarrel with my fraternity brother, P/Col. Mike Odejerte. Far from it!

As fraternity brothers, we are supposed to be bonded in blood and steel, our glorious pledge with each other as Betans. But, I will collide head-on on this because P/Col. Odejerte’s mindset may be representative of frame of mind of the entire police force in Region XII.  If it is, then, I am a a dead man walking.

If my own fraternity brother thinks of me as a communist, it is just so logical to conclude that other officers of the police establishment in the region would also think of me the way he does.

Let me start, however, by stating that I have no quarrel with P/Col Odejerte. In fact,  a few years ago, when he complained to me that he was not being given a post of a station commander in GenSan, I negotiated with, then, Police Director of GenSan, Froilan Quidilla to allow him to handle a position of a police station commander. He did.

As a result, P/Col. Odejerte was installed as a police station commander of Police Precinct 4 in Barangay San Isidro, which is a strategic police station. He thanked me for this.

Perhaps, my fraternity brother, P/Col. Mike Odejerte, does not know that, during the time when I was waging a difficult struggle against the local powers-that-be (I will not name names because I do not want this to be made as an issue in the forthcoming local elections), so many police officers in the city and the region were supporting me, both openly and clandestinely.

For instance, when, then, P/Lieutenant Jessie Ramos was ordered by his superior to put me in harm’s way, he defied that order. When he was put to task for his defiance, P/Col. Jessie Ramos rode on his motorcycle and fired his armalite rifles on the air, while snaking through various streets in GenSan.

Jessie Ramos almost ended his career because of this. I thank God that, after having been forced to pass through the eye of the needle, Jessie Ramos has been able to retire as a Police Colonel. He is now the head of the local traffic office of General Santos City.

P/Lieutenant Jessie Ramos, on strict orders, arrested me twice when I waged a one-man picket inside the mayor’s office in GenSan and inside the session hall of the Sangguniang Panlungsod of this city while in session.

But every time he arrested me, he was always apologetic. In fact, he was caught by the media sobbing, while dragging me into the police car.

When I was again ordered arrested, after the gallant women employees in the city government took command of the fire truck which was used to bombard our picket lines with water cannons, it was the late P/Lieutenant Suhod Mutalib who smuggled me out from the command center inside the employees’ village where I was holding up so that I can sneak through various police checkpoints which were established to effect my arrest, and so that I can eventually elude arrest. I actually succeeded to elude arrest.

When we wounded our bodies to draw blood which we used to sign in the covenant of unity, Lt. Suhod Mutalib cried profusely while being interviewed live by TV and radio media personnel for his reaction.

At that time, our ranks were already dwindling and we needed to engage in a blood compact to nurture courage among the members of the city hall union.

When my situation was on fire in GenSan, police officers were also responsible for transporting me from one hide-out to another to keep me from harm.

When I was investigated by the NBI for the burning of the city hall in GenSan, my well wishers were police officers and personnel. I was not indicted, with the NBI failing to find any iota proof on my complicity in the burning of the city hall.

At one point in our struggle, we organized the Save GenSan Movement to use it as a vehicle to dethrone the incumbent Mayor of GenSan, then. The police regional director in Region XII acted as our guest of honor and speaker during the induction of the officers of the movement.

The induction ceremony was held inside a blighted urban poor community, but, just the same, he attended it. In his speech, he verbally attacked the incumbent mayor and pledged the support of the entire police force in the region for our struggle.

Finally, when I was arrested for illegal assembly by virtue of the arrest warrant issued by the court and was detained in Police Station 1 near the city hall, P/Col. Jeng Salarda opened the door of my detention cell to bring in a chair for me so that I can feel comfortable in that cramped detention cell.

Let me now proceed to the other side of the story. When we were organizing various farmers’ organizations in the Municipality of Surallah, South Cotabato in the early months of 2004, I was embroiled in conflict with Noel Ligaspi, alias Ka Efren, who was, then, the spokesperson of the Southern Mindanao command of the CPP/NPA.

By the way, Ka Efren, later on, surrendered to the military for health reasons. He also acted as one of the witnesses of the military in the recently-held Senate hearing on red-tagging.

It can be recalled that, when Ka Efren surrendered to the military few years ago, I wrote an article on this paper urging the military not to use him against his comrades for his safety and just allow him to live in peace with his family.

But now, as is well known, Ka Efren is actually being used by the military for the demonization of his former comrades. Thus, Ka Efren’s desire to live in peace with his family is now becoming an elusive aspiration for him.

My conflict with Ka Efren started when the members of the NPA were paying nocturnal visits to the leaders of the farmers’ organizations which we organized in Surallah, South Cotabato. The NPAs warned them that they should not kowtow to us because we are reformists who are working to sabotage and delay the success of the people’s genuine revolutionary struggle.

When the members of NPA threatened him of death, our farmer-leader and organizer,  Tutong Dignadice fled from a mountainous barangay where he lived due to fear for his life and the safety of his family. We kept him here in GenSan for months to free him from any harm that may be committed by the members of the NPA who threatened him in Surallah.

This incident embroiled me in hated arguments over Radio Station DXCP with Ka Efren when he was still holding a high-ranking position in the CPP/NPA in Southern Mindanao. Other members of the CPP/NPA were also calling Radio Station DXCP to verbally abuse me.

It was during our heated debate when Ka Efren announced over Radio Station DXCP that I was already meted with death penalty by the “people’s court”. This “verdict” was confirmed by me when I was included in the “order of battle” of the CPP, together with Walden Bello, Joel Rocamora, Etta Rosales, and other prominent individuals in the activist movement.

The list was published in the Ang Bayan, the official publication of the CPP/NPA.

So, am I a communist? What is my stand on red-tagging? This story answers these questions. Moreover, answers to these questions are also found in the links which I mentioned above. Things that are stated in those links happily sit well with my position on red-tagging and are demonstrative of where I locate myself in the Philippine political spectrum.

Finally, if the frame of mind of P/Col. Mike Odejerte represents the point of view of the police establishment in the region, I am now putting to question the political education and the political maturity of our police officers, most of them, if not all, graduates of the Philippine National Police Academy.

To believe that there are only two shades in Philippine political spectrum is moronic. This is probably the reason why the military and police establishments are losing against the CPP/NPA in the tug-of-war for the hearts and minds of the people in the countryside.

(MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. Ben Sumog-oy is the action officer of IDEFEND-Gensan, Volunteer Head of the Para-legal Unit of Sentro-Socsksargen and Head of the Local Mass Struggle Unit of Akbayan-GenSan.)