CMFR/PHILIPPINES – The Philippine Army in southern Mindanao allegedly included a journalist and two media organizations in a 2007 watchlist of persons and organizations it claims to be connected to the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and its military arm, the New People’s Army (NPA). But the military has disowned the watchlist.
A powerpoint presentation titled “JCICC ‘Agila’ 3rd QTR 2007 OB Validation Result,” marked “SECRET” and allegedly prepared by the intelligence arm of the Philippine Army’s 10th Infantry Division includes journalist Carlos Conde in its “order of battle”. Conde, a journalist for fifteen years, is a correspondent for the International Herald Tribune and the New York Times, and also writes for local newspapers and online news sites.
An “order of battle” is a list of persons the Philippine military claims to be combatants or supporters of the CPP and NPA. A number of political activists who have appeared in such lists are among those who have been killed in the Philippines allegedly by military and paramilitary units. Over a thousand political activists and 40 journalists have been killed in the Philippines since 2001. Extra-judicial killings have been the subject of concern by the United Nations and human rights groups.
In an interview with the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR) on 19 May 2009, Conde said he was surprised at his inclusion in the “order of battle” validation report. Conde received the information from the International Solidarity Mission (ISM) which last week concluded a fact-finding mission into the effects of the government’s counter-insurgency program in Southern Mindanao. The CPP is not illegal, but the government has been fighting the NPA since 1968 in the most protracted guerilla war in Asia.
Although the list was dated 2007, Conde believes those included in it are still under threat. One person in the list, Celso Pojas, a peasant leader in Davao City, was killed in 2008.
Conde believes his inclusion is connected to his being the former coordinator of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) in Davao City. Conde, also the secretary-general of NUJP from 2004-2006, led local campaigns against the killing of journalists in their province.
“Why my name is included in the ‘order of battle’ is a mystery. Unless, that is, the armed forces considers my and NUJP’s advocacy for press freedom, as well as pressuring the government to end the killings, as the work of enemies of the state (and) unless the Armed Forces of the Philippines views my job and my writing as threats to my country,” he said in a 19 May statement.
The NUJP, which was previously tagged by the Armed Forces of the Philippines as an “enemy of the state”, and the defunct Media Mindanao News Service are also in the list. The College Editors Guild of the Philippines, an alliance of college publications, was also mentioned. But Conde was the only journalist specifically named in the alleged “order of battle”.
“Needless to say, this ‘order of battle’ has caused anxiety and fear in my family because, as we all know, an ‘order of battle’ in the Philippines is a veritable hit list,” Conde said in his statement.
Bayan Muna (Nation First) Congressman Satur Ocampo also showed the document during the presentation of the results of the fact-finding mission of the International Solidarity Mission in Davao City, a 20 May 2009 Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro report said. Sun.Star quoted Ocampo as saying that ISM got the document from a “conscientious soldier.” Davao is a province approximately 946 kms south of Manila.
But officials of the 10th Infantry Division denied authorship of the document. Col. Lysander Suerte, the chief of staff of the 10th Infantry Division, said in an interview with CMFR that whoever came out with the document only wants to misinform and agitate the public. Suerte also denied that the list presented by ISM was a list of persons targeted by the army.
“An ‘order of battle’ does not target individuals; it is mainly an assessment of the general threat to national security. What the ISM presented is not a list of targets, but that is how they want the public to see it so that unsolved/unexplained killings can be attributed to the military. They presented the list to create confusion and paranoia and eventually agitate the people to go against the military,” the 10th Infantry Division said in a statement.
The Philippine Daily Inquirer reported last 20 May 2009 that Maj. Gen. Reynaldo Mapagu, the commander of the 10th Infantry Division, has ordered an investigation into the origins of the watchlist.
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