Mayor Benjamin Magalong took exception to accusations that he was in cahoots with left-leaning groups saying his support to the government’s anti-insurgency program had remained solid as evidenced by his contributions as the head of the regional task force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (ELCAC) but he does not condone acts that violate the human rights of activists including intimidations, vilification and fact-twisting in social media.
The accusation was hurled by National Task Force ELCAC Undersecretary Lorraine Marie Badoy and the League of Parents of the Philippines as a result of the mayor’s recent engagements with cause-oriented groups.
Badoy, in a statement posted on social media, castigated Magalong for betraying the government by issuing “directives that give cover to the CPP-NPA-NDF front Kabataan Partylist” particularly the mayor’s orders to the city police to take down posters and tarpaulins linking activists to the insurgents.
The mayor slammed Badoy for irresponsibly issuing the statement without first checking her facts.
“Badoy’s statement is irresponsible, irrelevant and completely absurd as it was done without due process and due diligence. I risked my life fighting the insurgents hence I consider her statement as an insult. I am willing to face her and others who claim the same in public and debate with them. I am on the side of truth and I did not do anything wrong to undermine the ELCAC Program.,” the mayor said.
“Local government units should be ELCAC’s strong partners. We should support each other and cooperate with one another. Bullying and manipulating facts damage that relationship. They twist the facts and shout over social media. This tactic erodes the unprecedented gains of ELCAC. Stories empower and enlightens. But if it is intended to malign and tainted with negative thoughts and hatred, it robs people of their dignity. Sadly, they just did that to me,” the mayor lamented.
He said ELCAC’s role is to “build bridges” and promote due process and one way to do it is to reach out to the affected sectors and hear them as what he did by engaging them.
“The best way to defeat insurgency is through good governance. It is not only about delivering basic services but mainly though innovation, transformation, competent leadership and respect for human rights,” the mayor said.
“ELCAC has good programs and its accomplishments against insurgency are unprecedented but the problem is if there are high-handed people who resort to intimidation, vilification and truth manipulation, these acts would only result in radicalizing people and driving them further away from the government,” he said.
He said his engagement with the activists allowed them to ventilate their sentiments from allegedly being victims of red-tagging and other forms of intimidations allegedly by uniformed men.
He said he assured them that they are safe in the city and ordered the city police to disallow posters displaying photos of individuals and linking them to communist-terrorist groups.
“After all, marami sa kanila are just activists voicing out issues against the government but they will never resort to violence and align themselves with the CPP-NPA. I can say this because I saw them, kilala ko naman iba sa kanila. Besides, it is just right to protect their human rights. Tama lang instead of them being displayed without due process because if we do, what will happen to the families, their children? Are we not radicalizing them?” the mayor said.
He said this however does not mean that he had turned his back on the government’s anti-insurgency program.
“Does it diminish my resolve to fight insurgency? No, it does not. If you will see the video of what transpired in the meeting, I was even defending the program because I believe in the ELCAC program with its unprecedented the accomplishments. Nakita ko paano nag-unify through the whole-of-government and whole-of-society approach to really fight the communist-terrorist group. It never happened before — the entire government move in one direction — ang laki ng gains because of ELCAC. I know it, I have been through a lot of administrations and I saw the big difference now,” the mayor said.
“I am still very much committed to fighting the communist terrorist group I hope they will continue supporting and sustaining the ELCAC program,” he added.