The People’s View

An alternative audio-visual group launched recently a video documentary about Basilan and the effects of the presence in the island of at least 8,000 Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) soldiers and, later, the U.S. troops. Presenting the issue from the point of view of the residents, the group did what the government has failed to do: listen to the voices of the people of Basilan.

By ROWENA CARRANZA
Bulatlat.com

Dubbed “Basilan: Siklab ng Digma (Spark of War),” the documentary was produced by Kodao Productions, a multimedia production house engaged in video and radio production, training and outreach programs.

“Siklab” focuses on the reactions of the residents on the menace wrought by the massive and continuous military operations and their fears about the presence of U.S. troops. It features both Christian and Muslim residents, including Fr. Cirilo Nacorda, parish priest of Lamitan town. Nacorda earlier charged the military of colluding with the ASG in kidnap-for-ransom activities.

“Our community used to be peaceful. We could plant crops, coconut, bananas and various vegetables. We could raise chickens, ducks, goats and carabaos. Now, danger looms over us…” Uttered by a resident, these words represent the general feeling of despair among Basileños.

Witnesses recalled how soldiers allegedly let Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) members escape during the Lamitan siege last year. ASG members assaulted the town and were already cornered by AFP soldiers in the Lamitan hospital when they were suspiciously pulled out from their position at the back of the hospital. The bandits then retreated through the back, walking casually, said town residents.

Kodao’s documentary also highlights the human rights violations committed by Filipino troops:

“They put pepper on our mouths and buttocks,” described a man of the torture he suffered under the military. He has been in detention for almost a year now for allegedly being an ASG member. “Help us, Sir, we did not do anything wrong,” he implored his interviewer.

On the U.S. troops in Basilan, many of those interviewed believed their presence is unnecessary:

“We don’t need the American forces if you analyze what’s happening,” said Fr. Nacorda, referring to the alleged conspiracy between AFP leaders and ASG. The priest and several other residents said that the AFP could stop the ASG if it really wants to.

On the other hand, retired Navy Captain Dan Vizmanos, who was once deployed in the area, said, “The Abu Sayyaf and this war against terrorism is being used by the American government to justify U.S. military intervention in the Philippines.” He said the United States wants to use the Philippines as a staging area for projection of U.S. military power in Southeast Asia.

For the residents, the problem being brought by U.S. presence in Basilan is simpler and more immediate: “We could no longer continue this cycle of going out our farms to get food and then coming back down. That’s why we don’t want the Americans to come here. The residents of Tipo-Tipo (a town in Basilan) do not want the Americans because they (will further) create disorder,” said a woman resident who described how they have been forced to live in evacuation centers away from their sources of livelihood.

The residents also expressed dismay over President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s words that anyone who is against the RP-U.S. war exercise being held in Basilan is an “Abu Sayyaf lover.”

A version of the video documentary with English subtitles is available, said Kodao producer Bedette Libres. Bulatlat.com

We want to know what you think of this article.

An alternative audio-visual group launched recently a video documentary about Basilan and the effects of the presence in the island of at least 8,000 Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) soldiers and, later, the U.S. troops. Presenting the issue from the point of view of the residents, the group did what the government has failed to do: listen to the voices of the people of Basilan.

By ROWENA CARRANZA
Bulatlat.com

Dubbed “Basilan: Siklab ng Digma (Spark of War),” the documentary was produced by Kodao Productions, a multimedia production house engaged in video and radio production, training and outreach programs.

“Siklab” focuses on the reactions of the residents on the menace wrought by the massive and continuous military operations and their fears about the presence of U.S. troops. It features both Christian and Muslim residents, including Fr. Cirilo Nacorda, parish priest of Lamitan town. Nacorda earlier charged the military of colluding with the ASG in kidnap-for-ransom activities.

“Our community used to be peaceful. We could plant crops, coconut, bananas and various vegetables. We could raise chickens, ducks, goats and carabaos. Now, danger looms over us…” Uttered by a resident, these words represent the general feeling of despair among Basileños.

Witnesses recalled how soldiers allegedly let Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) members escape during the Lamitan siege last year. ASG members assaulted the town and were already cornered by AFP soldiers in the Lamitan hospital when they were suspiciously pulled out from their position at the back of the hospital. The bandits then retreated through the back, walking casually, said town residents.

Kodao’s documentary also highlights the human rights violations committed by Filipino troops:

“They put pepper on our mouths and buttocks,” described a man of the torture he suffered under the military. He has been in detention for almost a year now for allegedly being an ASG member. “Help us, Sir, we did not do anything wrong,” he implored his interviewer.

On the U.S. troops in Basilan, many of those interviewed believed their presence is unnecessary:

“We don’t need the American forces if you analyze what’s happening,” said Fr. Nacorda, referring to the alleged conspiracy between AFP leaders and ASG. The priest and several other residents said that the AFP could stop the ASG if it really wants to.

On the other hand, retired Navy Captain Dan Vizmanos, who was once deployed in the area, said, “The Abu Sayyaf and this war against terrorism is being used by the American government to justify U.S. military intervention in the Philippines.” He said the United States wants to use the Philippines as a staging area for projection of U.S. military power in Southeast Asia.

For the residents, the problem being brought by U.S. presence in Basilan is simpler and more immediate: “We could no longer continue this cycle of going out our farms to get food and then coming back down. That’s why we don’t want the Americans to come here. The residents of Tipo-Tipo (a town in Basilan) do not want the Americans because they (will further) create disorder,” said a woman resident who described how they have been forced to live in evacuation centers away from their sources of livelihood.

The residents also expressed dismay over President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s words that anyone who is against the RP-U.S. war exercise being held in Basilan is an “Abu Sayyaf lover.”

A version of the video documentary with English subtitles is available, said Kodao producer Bedette Libres. Bulatlat.com

We want to know what you think of this article.

Advertisements