Philippines: National Artist Under Surveillance

The Philippine Navy recently confirmed that the man caught stalking the home of Bienvenido Lumbera, a prizewinning poet, dramatist, and literary critic, on September 17 was one of its personnel carrying out a surveillance training exercise.

Wonderer.wanderer asks, “What does the Navy want from a National Artist?” At Midfield answers that the country is now turning into a police state:

No conclusion other than this can be reached with the admission by the Philippine Navy that National Artist and Magsaysay Award laureate Bienvenido ‘Bien’ Lumbera was indeed the target of an actual surveillance operation.

The lame excuse: “it was just a training mission.”

The lie just does not wash as Lumbera’s ‘targeting’ is apparently linked to his active participation in protests against Malacanang’s ‘dagdag-bawas’ moves in the recent National Artists’ Awards.

The message is all too obvious as it is chilling: we will not be secure in our homes if we dare get on the radar screen of the military for holding views opposed to the regime.

The administration of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has one of the worse human rights record after the Marcos dictatorship. The human rights alliance Karapatan has counted more than a thousand cases of political killings and over two hundred enforced disappearances since Arroyo took power in 2001.

For their part, the All-UP Workers Union reposts the editorial of a national daily on the issue in its blog:

The bungled spying on Lumbera, in other words, forms part of a chilling pattern. Thus, despite the sincerity of official spokesmen, the public cannot look upon the incident as a simple “inconvenience,” or (as Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita treated it) a mere laughing matter; it is of the utmost seriousness—because as we have learned from sad experience, military intelligence agents take their cue directly from Malacañang: as spies from a private army.

On a lighter note, The Construct suggests that the military should add watching James Bond and other spy films in their training program:

So why were they able to trump a marine? Given the supposed reputation of the Philippine Marines, wasn’t the guy supposed to be able to evade capture? Isn’t not cutting corners a basic lesson in the stalking (at least in sniper school)? A simple ploy like posing as a bill carrier or a utility meter reader would’ve worked flawlessly. I mean military folks do have that certain look that make them totally stand out in a subdivision like Dr. Lumbera’s.

But as Rising Sun warns:

Sa konteksto ng maraming kaso ng paglabag sa karapatang pantao, may dahilan para mabahala ang mga katulad ni Lumbera. Ang operasyong militar ay hindi humihinto sa simpleng pagkuha lang ng larawan o pagtatala ng mga naobserbahang aktibidad. Maaaring ito ang simula para sa planong pagdukot o pagpatay, sa pangunguna ng mga sundalong nasanay na sa kultura ng walang pakundangan.

In the context of the many cases of human rights violations, people like Lumbera have reason to worry. The military operations do not stop in the simple taking of pictures or recording of observed activities. This might be the beginning of plans for the abduction or murder by soldiers conditioned in a culture of impunity.


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