The local National Democratic Front yesterday slammed some priests and lay leaders in Negros for involving the Social Action Centers of Dioceses of Bacolod, San Carlos, Kabankalan and Dumaguete in the Oplan Bayanihan campaign plan of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, that it said, is aimed at destroying the revolutionary movement.
Priest-turned-rebel Frank Fernandez, NDF-Negros spokesman, said the recent meeting of the Church Military Advisory Group in Dumaguete City, that was attended by Fr. Rolex Nueva and Jack Pamine of Pax Christi, Colonels Jonas Sumagaysay and Manuel Ochotorena, Senior Supts. Allan Guisihan and Rey Lyndon Lawas, among others, led to the formulation of a counter-revolutionary joint efforts.
This “compact of the devils” as Fernandez calls it, defines the systematic and grandest plans to maximize the effective utilization of influence and resources of the Catholic Church, in combat, civil-military and intelligence operations.
What Fr. Nueva and Pamini did was outrightly losing their civilian status and align themselves as “evil diehard counter-revolutionaries”, he said.
The CMAG, which has vowed to strengthen its promotion of harmony and working relationship to attain peace in Negros, was organized three years ago when former Armed Forces chief General Victor Ibrado was the commanding general of the AFP Central Command in the Visayas.
It initiated feeding programs in tandem with the Philippine National Police, various local government units and line agencies, as well as non-government and people’s organizations. It included medical and dental outreach activities and constructed various infrastructure projects, tapping the services of Army engineers, especially in the hinterland areas of Negros island, military records show.
The creation of CMAG was signed and supported by the four bishops and Bacolod, Kabankalan and San Carlos in Negros Occidental, and Dumaguete in Negros Oriental.
Major John Andrada, commander of the 3rd Civil Military Operations Battalion, said “The priests and bishops have seen the merits and good intentions of the current internal peace and security operations of the AFP that they themselves are supporting the effort for the greater and single objective of obtaining peace”.
“His ( Fernandez) condemnation simply shows that he and what he represents are condemning anyone who supports peace,” Andrada added.
Fernandez also said in a statement he issued that joint church-military CMO projects have sacrificed the truth and justice, and provide a moral license for the AFP and PNP to launch heightened military operations, which will worsen human rights violations, especially in the countrysides.
He claimed that the people and victims of injustice are demanding an explanation from the senior bishops if they “ wittingly or unwittingly” approve the use of the Church, in joining CMAG and CMO activities, hide and acquit the involvement of state security forces in extra-judicial killings, enforced disappearances, torture, forced evacuations, illegal arrest and detention.
Maj. Gen. Vicente Porto, former commander of the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division, yesterday said that the creation of CMAG –Negros has established a “very smooth and cooperative” relationship between the AFP and Church officials, especially with the Dioceses of Bacolod, San Carlos, Kabankalan and Dumaguete.
During the Martial Law years, six Negrense priests, among them Fernandez and Luis Jalandoni, went to the mountains and joined the armed struggle against the Marcos dictatorship.
Porto said issues and concerns being raised both by the state security and Church officials are being discussed thoroughly, and jointly solved. “The AFP, PNP and Church are one – that is the beauty of CMAG,” he said.
“We now have a robust, harmonious relationship between the Church, military, PNP and local government chief executives,” he added.
Asked what the Church has contributed to their peace and development campaign in Negros, Porto said “Cooperative understanding,” adding that they are both looking for a “win-win” solution to all the problems being raised.*GPB