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FIRING LINE: Other view of August 21

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By Robert B. Roque, Jr.

Last August 21 was a holiday, commemorating what most of us Filipinos remember as one of the darkest days in modern political history — the assassination of former Sen. Benigno S. Aquino, Jr. or “Ninoy” at the old Manila International Airport 37 years ago.

Ninoy’s blood on the tarmac set off a chain of mass protests against the Marcos dictatorship, forced snap elections that were rigged, and then led to the downfall of a 20-year-old tyrannous regime through a dramatic “People Power” revolution.

Indeed, it was a sweet victory for democracy as the Philippine military defected to the people’s cause after decades of blind brutal obedience to a corrupt and vicious commander-in-chief. Since then, the uniformed service has been trying to redeem itself as faithful servant of the people.

What caught my attention, though, in last week’s marking of “Ninoy Aquino Day” is the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ (AFP) leaning towards discussing another occasion marked on the same day — the United Nations “International Day of Remembering Victims of Terrorism”.

Over the radio, I listened as Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade Jr., AFP Deputy Chief of Staff for Civil-Military Operations, and Maj. Gen. Ernesto Torres, Chief of the AFP Civil Relations Service, took turns in ripping apart the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) for the most gruesome “terrorist acts” in the country.

Torres cited among them the Inopacan Massacre in Leyte, which was a purging of scores of the NPA’s own members and associates who had been suspected of spying for the government in 1985; the bombing of a church in Digos City that killed 40 parishioners in 1989; and a recent ambush in Calaca, Bukidnon that killed a policeman and a four-month-old baby.

“Paano nating nakalimutan ang mga ito (How did we come to forget these atrocities)?” Torres asked and then blamed what he termed as a brilliant “propaganda machinery” of the CPP for wiping off their poop and smearing it on the military to sell off as “human rights abuses”.

Sounding like he would barf all over himself, Parlade expressed his disgust at how a “godless ideology” — as he branded the CPP-NPA — has found allies in the Catholic church to peddle lies about the military.

Torres then called on the youth not to be tricked into joining organizations that are — as far as the AFP is concerned — fronts of the CPP. He mentioned the LFS, the CEGP, and the NUSP as if they meant “Leftist” Filipino Students, “Communist” Editors Guild of the Philippines, and “NPA Underground” Students of the Philippines.

I’m sure many eyebrows would be raised to the ceiling over these statements. I wished the AFP generals just stuck to discussing the martyrdom of Ninoy. But then again, it hurts when you step on your own toes, right?

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