ROUGH CUTS| Something positive from the Haran incident

THE LUMAD evacuation center at Haran complex inside the Brokenshire Health Ministry compound intentionally burned?

This, according to the lumad evacuees, was what happened last Wednesday night. And they seem definite in pinpointing the military as the culprit, as if they got hold of any suspect and positively identified the latter to be member of the armed forces or the so-called paramilitary units that the military is known to be supporting.

On the other hand, the local military command was quick to deny any involvement. Instead it turned the table against the lumad evacuees saying that the incident could even be the handiwork of the group to ensure continuing support from their backers.

Frankly, what is hard to understand is what really keeps the lumads continue staying at that evacuation center for the longest time. Imagine the cost of their stay in terms of food requirement, water and electricity bills!

If we assume that their occupation of the Haran complex is for free, we cannot figure out who are footing their food bills. Whoever they may be they must be extremely moneyed and generous because close to a thousand people is no simple number to feed daily.

On the other hand, what is also hard to comprehend is the government’s continued playing deaf to the plea of the lumads to dismantle the paramilitary units that are allegedly harassing the upland residents for their alleged support to the rebel New People’s Army (NPA). If it is true that there indeed exist these ruthless groups the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) of the government could not have failed to monitor their bloody trail. So, why not the CHR make a very strong recommendation to the President to order the military to dismantle the groups terrorizing the natives?

Meanwhile, if the lumads feel that they are safe without military presence in their area, then why not the military give it to them? The military sure knows that in this kind of battle involving ideology the enemy cannot hope to win their fight in an open shooting war. But they can very well win it using the hearts and minds of the people as their selected battle ground. And their weapon of choice is not the gun. Rather, the ideologist rebels prefer propaganda where they think they have the advantage.

And the government and its military are sucked into the vortex of the rebels’ game plan. This despite the perceived advantage of the military because they have the best schooled commanders and ground troops. In other words, the military played the rebels’ game and perhaps unknowingly acceded to the latter’s rules.

One such example of military blunder is its desire to hit hard the rebels by using people in the very community the insurgents operate to fight them on the presumption that the locals know the rebels better.

Unfortunately, this scheme appeared to have boomeranged on the government because what the military might have thought beforehand as effective partners in bringing the armed forces’ cause to the consciousness of community residents, have evolved into terrifying monsters. The so-called paramilitary organizations have become modern day Frankenstein.

The rebels therefore are quick to capitalize on this apparent armed forces miscue and use it to the fullest. And in such strategy the ideologist NPA need not even use bullets. Those who are affected by the so-called military approach are now the ones carrying on the fight for the rebels in the people’s “hearts and minds” battleground.

Yes, in the Haran evacuation center incident, the military could be right in its assertion that the fire could have been intentionally set off by those who are supporting the lumad evacuees, the rebels included. In the same manner, the lumads too, may also be correct in their own claim that the alleged arson was perpetuated by the military men and their subalterns.

But the allegation that the military is the perpetrator seems to get the bigger credibility. This is because of its continued failure to act positively on the lumads’ demands.

And whether they like it or not, it is the government which the military represents that is losing as far as the battle of propaganda is concerned.

It is just unfortunate that there are many good and laudable things that the country’s armed forces are doing that did not stick in the consciousness of the people. We do not know if it is the failure of government to properly and sustainably communicate those good things but we are certain that some groups somewhere made the mistake.

We are particularly referring to the military’s support during times of disasters where members are in the frontlines doing the most dangerous job of rescuing trapped victims, bringing food and other relief goods in areas hardly accessible by ordinary and untrained individuals.

Yet all this hardly had the chance of getting sustained positive commentaries. All these good deeds get are once or twice published stories or photos that are sometimes not even noticed by the ordinary readers.

If at all, the government must take cue from these good things that the military do during calamity times. For certain, there are avenues other than disaster responses that our soldiers can be harnessed to make them the real soldiers of the people and not the other way around, the people’s tormentors.

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Posted in Opinion