Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Documentary - ABC-TV5 Frontlines - Documentary on the NDF in Bicol,Philippines

Documentary on the NDF in Bicol,Philippines

On August 23, ABC-TV5's new program, Frontlines, broadcast a documentary on the NDF in Bicol, focusing on the operations of the "shadow" government run by the NDFP in the areas it controls. The Frontlines documentary also featured the NDF-Bicol tri-media group that operates the broadcast through VCD and audio tape programming and production, and distribution to its constituents in the region.

Images from the documentary

‘Battlefield’ Bicol

Download in 5 parts (Appproximately 10 mb each )
(Note- There are NO english subtitles and the whole documentary
is in the native language )

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

‘Battlefield’ Bicol

The Bicol Region, located at the southernmost part of Luzon, is one of the places where the battle between the government and communist revolutionaries for winning the hearts and minds of the people is particularly intense. Mang Ricky and Aling Melba, interviewed by Bulatlat somewhere in the region, said that aside from the poverty they face everyday, they also have stories about their bad experience in the hands of state forces.


The Bicol Region, located at the southernmost part of Luzon, is one of the places where the battle between the government and communist revolutionaries for winning the hearts and minds of the people is particularly intense.

So when President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo about two months back declared “all-out war” against the Left, she identified Bicol – which encompasses the provinces of Camarines Norte, Camarines Sur, Albay, Sorsogon, Masbate, and Catanduanes – as among three critical areas, the other two being Central Luzon and Southern Tagalog. The “all-out war” declaration was further pumped up by the allocation of P1 billion ($19.5 million, based on an exchange rate of P51.25 per U.S. dollar) as additional funds for the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) purportedly to crush the “communist insurgency” within two years.

Mang Ricky (not his real name), a peasant somewhere in the region, tells of having come into contact with both government soldiers and New People’s Army (NPA) guerrillas.

He does not at all have bad words about the NPA guerrillas who, he said, occasionally pass through their village. “Tumutulong sila pag may gagawing trabaho” (They help when there is work to be done), he said, referring to work in the field.

He first met NPA guerrillas in 1972, when he had just finished grade school, he said. He wasn’t afraid of them then and he isn’t afraid of them now, he said. “Wala namang rebeldeng nananakit ng sibilyan” (There are no rebels who hurt civilians), he said.

Aling Irma (not her real name), 42, who also lives somewhere in Bicol and makes handicraft from abaca for a living, shared the same observations about NPA guerrillas. “Noong una kaming makakita ng NPA, hindi naman kami natakot. Bakit kami matatakot? Ano nga ang ikakatakot ko? Hindi naman gumagawa ng masama sa amin. Tulad sila ng mga normal na tao” (When we first saw NPA guerrillas, we weren’t scared. Why should we be scared? What have we to be scared of? They don’t do anything bad to us. They’re like normal people), she said.

Aling Melba (not her real name), a peasant woman also somewhere in Bicol and a mother of 10, agreed. “Parang natural lang pag dumadaan sila. Kasi, maganda naman ang pakikitungo nila sa amin. Wala namang problema” (We go on with our daily lives if and when they pass by. Because they treat us well. We have no problem with them), she said.

“Pag may ginagawa kami, sila na ang gumagawa. Tinutulungan talaga kami” (When we’re doing something they volunteer to do it. They really help us), she said.

Poverty and armed conflict

Critics of the “all-out war” policy now being employed by the Arroyo administration against the Left argue that armed revolutionary movements cannot be crushed by sole military might. Poverty and social injustice are at the core of armed conflict, they say.

Mang Ricky said whatever he earns as a farmer has never been enough to adequately feed himself, his wife, and his six children.

In the village where Mang Ricky, Aling Irma and Aling Melba live, the usual huts hardly have room for three people. Access to water is difficult and you can count with the fingers in your hand residents who have power supply. The road is all dirt and children spend hours walking to and from the nearest public school.

Does the village where Mang Ricky, Aling Irma and Aling Melba live in reflect the condition of common folk in the Bicol Region? The latter is known as one of the poorest regions in the Philippines. Even government statistics prove this.

The most recent data from the National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB) on poverty incidence – which date back to Jan. 24, 2005 – lists Bicol as the fourth poorest region in the country as of 2003 – next to the Caraga Region, the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), and Western Mindanao.

The NSCB places Bicol’s 2003 poverty incidence at 48.4 percent. But the NSCB bases this on a very low national poverty threshold of an income of P12,475 ($243.42) per person annually or P34.18 ($0.66) per person per day.

Based on data from the National Wages and Productivity Commission (NWPC), the living wage for a family of six – the average Filipino family – in the Bicol Region was P472 ($9.21) daily in 2003. It has since risen to P628 ($12.25) daily as of May 2006, NWPC data further show.

When computed using NWPC data, poverty incidence in Bicol would surely be higher than the figure given by the NSCB. Using the NSCB’s computations, a family of six in Bicol earning only P205 ($4) per day is not considered poor.

Atrocities against the people

Aside from the poverty they face everyday, Mang Ricky and Aling Melba also have stories about their bad experience in the hands of state forces.

“Y’ong mga sundalo, pag napadaan dito, nagtuturo ng mga NPA daw, tinatakot, sinasaktan” (When soldiers come here, they go around accusing people of being NPA guerrillas, then threaten and hurt them), Mang Ricky said.

Mang Ricky himself became a victim of government soldiers who suspected him of being an NPA guerrilla in 1981, he said. At around 5 a.m. one day, they roused him from sleep; snatched him from his hut; and kept him in their custody until about 6 p.m. While in their custody, he said, he was repeatedly beaten. Aside from the physical abuse, he said he was also psychologically tortured. “Pinapatakbo nga ako, e. Pinapatakbo. E karamihan d’on, pag tumakbo ka, babarilin ka” (They tried to make me run. Usually when they make you run and you run, they shoot you), he said.

Aling Melba, meanwhile, experienced soldiers suddenly barging inside her hut just last May. “Mga alas-5 ng madaling-araw ‘yon. Basta pumasok na lang nila sa amin. Naghalungkat ho, ewan ko kung ano’ng hinahanap nila. Wala namang sinasabi, basta may hinahanap lang daw sila. E ang mga anak ko naman...lahat tulog pa nang dumating sila. Pinaikutan y’ong bahay namin. Y’ong mga bata, nagsilabasan na. Natakot” (It was about 5 a.m. They just barged in.

They searched the hut, I didn’t know what they were looking for. They didn’t say what it was, just that they were looking for something. My children...were all asleep when they barged in. They surrounded our hut. The children went out, they were terrified), she said

The soldiers stayed until 10 a.m., Aling Melba said, and one of them even cooked and ate there.

“Natatakot talaga kami pag dumarating sila. Kasi ‘yon nga ho, pinapasok nila kami sa bahay, hindi lang kami ang pinasok nila nang basta-basta” (We get scared whenever they come. Because they just barge into huts, we’re not the only ones whose huts they just barged into), she said.

Prospects in the battle

That Arroyo named Bicol as one of the critical areas in her government’s “all-out war” against the Left means that there will be a step-up in the deployment of troops in the region.

Meanwhile, in her State of the Nation Address (SoNA) for this year, Arroyo divided the Philippines into five “super-regions,” each with corresponding economic plans: the North Luzon Agribusiness Quadrangle, the Metro Luzon Urban Beltway, Central Philippines, Mindanao, and the Cyber Corridor.

“Central Philippines has the competitive edge in tourism in its natural wonders and the extraordinary hospitality of its people,” Arroyo said in her SoNA. “The area sweeps across Palawan and Romblon, the Visayas and Bicol, plus the northern Mindanao islands of Camiguin, Siargao and Dapitan.

Top billed by Boracay, Cebu, Bohol and Palawan, it attracts more than half of the foreign tourists to the Philippines. It is also the center of geothermal power in the country, which we continue to develop. The priority here is tourism investments. Coming soon for superstar Boracay are an instrument landing system for the Kalibo airport and a P3-billion private investment in a San Jose, Romblon airport, plus good roads to spillover destinations all over Panay.”

The Arroyo administration apparently hopes to quell the long-running armed conflict with the two-pronged approach of military might and economic “development.”

But unless human rights are respected and economic plans translate into real change in the conditions of the people, winning the hearts and minds of the likes of Mang Ricky, Aling Irma, and Aling Melba is going to be a tall order for the government. Bulatlat


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