DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 29 Dec) – Bayan Muna party-list representatives Caslos Isagani Zarate and Eufemia Cullamat on Saturday urged Congress to investigate allegations of ‘fake surrenderers,’ as a photoshopped photograph released by the Philpipine Army’s 9th Infantry Division in Masbate showing allegedly surrendered firearms and alleged communist rebels who surrendered may just be part of a “fake surrenderers and bounty collection racket of state forces.”
This, as Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana ordered Army Chief Lt. Gen. Gilbert Gapay to investigate the “unacceptable” manipulated photo.
Lorezana said sanctions will be meted out on those responsible for the doctored photograph. “This is very serious because it undermines the efforts of the whole organization, the AFP,” he said, adding that the military has been “doing well enjoying an unprecedented high trust rating from the people. And now this? This action is unacceptable.”
The photoshopped photograph shows firearms on a table and the alleged surrenderers, their faces blurred, supposedly standing but looking like they were a row of people pasted on the photo, their feet a bit above the floor.
In a press statement, Zarate, also House Minority Leader, said they received reports from farmers and ordinary folk nationwide of having been “called into a supposed mass meetings by the military but when they get there they are presented as NPA surrenderers and made to sign blank documents.”
“Out of fear of military abuse they were forced to sign said the blank document,” he said.
The photoshopped pictures from out of a batch of supposed 306 surrenderers in Masbate “seems to be the template” used by the AFP and the Philippine National Police (PNP) to “have a sterling report or meeting the quota for their unit,” ensure “promotion for the officers, as well as soldiers and police involved in the deception;” and secure “money from the Enhanced–Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-CLIP) budget or what the local government unit (LGU) will add,” Zarate said.
“The culprits are hitting three birds with one deception and they are making money out of it as well because they are supposedly the ones getting the money allocated for the purported surrenderers with at least P15,000 from E-CLIP and the same amount from the LGU or government departments or at least P30,000 for each surrenderer. In the supposed Masbate event alone that would mean P9.180 million that can go to the military unit involved,” he added.
“What is worse though is that they are apparently also recycling these pictures and fake surrenderers and present them as new surrenderers,” he said, citing media reports that the Masbate picture has been used from 2017 until December 28.
“This anomaly urgently needs to be investigated by Congress because the peoples’ coffers are being drained by these corrupt and unscrupulous officers,” Zarate said.
Cullamat said the same strategy is employed by the military and police in dealing with the Lumads (Indigenous Peoples).
“Ipapatawag daw sa meeting tapos pagdating nila ay nakalatag ng mga baril sa mesa at sasabihing mga NPA sila” (They would be called to a meeting and when they arrive, the firearms are on the table and they are told they are members of the NPA (New People’s Army).
Cullamat, a Manobo leader, said government forces go to houses of leaders of progressive groups and plant guns and grenades so they will be jailed “o di kaya naman ay tuluyan nilang pinapatay” (or are killed).
“Kung tutuusin isa din ito sa mga dahilan kaya hinaharangan ng AFP ang peace talks dahil mababawasan ang kanilang pinagkakakitaan. Talagang dapat na maimbestigahan agad ito ng Kongreso upang matigil na ang paglabag sa karapatang pantao ng sinasabi nilang surrenderees at makita ng lahat ang panloloko ng mga opisyal ng military,” (This is one of the reasons why the AFP is against the resumption of the peace talks because it will reduce their earnings. This should be investigated by Congress to stop violation of human rights of the alleged surrenderees and everyone will see how military officials fooled everyone), Cullamat said.
In a statement, Maj. Ricky Aguilar, spokesperson of the Army’s 9th Infantry Division, said they had no intention to mislead the public with the photoshopped photograph “but to protect the lives of the Former Rebels (FRs) who placed themselves at risk by surrendering to the government.”
“We apologize for the honest mistake. We are hoping for your kind understanding,” the statement read. (MindaNews)