Sectoral progressive groups under Bagong Alyansang Makabayan Metro Manila launched Defend the Defenders Network (DDN) to hit Oplan Kalasag, the counter-insurgency program in Metro Manila of the joint task force of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and National Capital Region police office (NCRPO).

During the event, the victims of harassment from different members of progressive groups shared their experiences of harassment from the local police and military presence to their communities.

Bagong Alyansang Makabayan Metro Manila Chairperson Raymond Palatino explained what they know about Oplan Kalasag so far.

“Kung sa Mindanao ay may Martial Law at sa Negros ay may Sauron, dito po sa Metro Manila mayroong pinapatupad na Oplan Kalasag. Isang programa na kung saan ang ating mga barangay at komunidad ay binabasehan ng mga militar. Sila ay bumibisita sa mga eskwelahan, mga barangay at mga nanakot sa ating mga kababayan na sinasabi na dapat ang mga aktibista ay hindi suportahan sa ating mga komunidad,” Palatino said.

[If there is Martial Law in Mindanao and in Negros there is Sauron, in Metro Manila there is Oplan Kalasag. A program where villages and communities became base of military men. They visit schools, villages, and they scare people saying that they should not support activists in their communities.]

Palatino said this government program trampled against the people’s right to expression and organization.

Also, according to reports gathered by BAYAN Metro Manila, military presence increased in the communities of Tala and Camarin in Caloocan, Catmon in Malabon and Canumay, Valenzuela City.

Representative Arlene Brosas of Gabriela Women’s Party also attend the launching of DDN said the proposed national budget for 2020 now pending in the Lower House of Congress will to fund the “whole-of-nation approach.”

“Sa 2020 budget natin, ang malaking paglalaanan ng pamahalaan ay ang ‘whole-of-nation’ approach or counterinsurgency budget ng pamahalaan. Malaking budget ay nasa Department of National Defense (DND), nasa Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) at meron pang specific sa National Task Force to End Local Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), PhP 522 Million na pondo ang ilalaan diyan,” Brosas said.

[In our 2020 budget, a big allocation of the government will go to the ‘whole-of-nation approach or the counterinsurgency budget of government. Big budget was allotted to DND, to DILG and there is a specific allocation for NTF-ELCAC where Php 522 will be allotted.]

The “whole-of-nation approach” will utilize civilian government agencies in the government’s counterinsurgency program Oplan Kapanatagan. Oplan Kalasag in the National Capital Region and Oplan Sauron utilize the same approach and form part of Oplan Kapanatagan.

The DDN launch was ended by a protest action along Taft Avenue in Manila to call for the unity of the people to expose the true aim of the whole-of-nation approach, which is to use government agencies as a weapon against the people, to deprive social services and isolate those who defend their rights and their communities.

“Kaya itong DDN ay simbolo ng pagkakaisa ng mamamayan na ituloy ang laban at biguin ang Oplan Kalasag. Dapat na pondohan ng pamahalaan para sa basic services ng kalusugan, edukasyon at pabahay at hindi para sa intelligence fund at militarisasyon sa ating komunidad.” Palatino ended.

[The DDN is a symbol of unity of the people to continue our fight and frustrate Oplan Kalasag. Government should fund basic services such as health, education, housing instead of intelligence funds and militarization in our communities.]

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