Press Release
March 23, 2007


Senate Minority Leader Aquilino ?Nene? Q. Pimentel, Jr. (PDP-Laban) today urged Malacañang and the Armed Forces of the Philippines to heed the order of the Commission on Human Rights for the immediate pullout of soldiers from barangays in Metro Manila and spare the country from the specter of militarization and undeclared martial law.

Pimentel said President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and Gen. Hermogenes Esperon, AFP chief-of-staff, will gain nothing but merely inflame public anger if they defy the position taken by the CHR against the continued deployment of the soldiers in 27 depressed barangays in Manila, Quezon and Caloocan cities.

?I laud the order of the Commission on Human Rights for soldiers to leave the urban barangays. Their presence there is unconstitutional. Maintenance of law and order in these areas is the duty of civilian authorities,? he said.

In issuing the order, the CHR, headed by Chairperson Purificacion Quisumbing, said military presence in urban poor communities in Metro Manila should not be tolerated because it will always be equated by the people with war or martial law.

?Militarization of the civilian communities would be tantamount to violation of certain civil and political rights of the residents,? Chairperson Quisumbing said in a letter to the President, Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita, Gen. Esperon and Philippine National Police Director General Oscar Calderon.

He said the orders and recommendations of the CHR have binding effect and cannot just be ignored by responsible public officials since the CHR is the independent constitutional body mandated to protect the human rights of Filipinos.

Pimentel, principal author of the Local Government Code, said barangay chairmen, with the help of the tanod (watchmen), are primarily responsible for maintaining law and order in the communities.

In case of troubles in the barangays caused by lawless elements, the police is called upon to deal with the problem.

It is only when the threat to the security of barangay residents becomes so grave and beyond the police?s fighting capability that the military may be asked by civilian authorities to intervene.

Pimentel brushed aside Gen. Esperon?s assertion that soldiers were deployed to the barangays in Metro Manila to neutralize the alleged presence of communist insurgents.

?If that is his justification, how come that none of the barangays has reported that rebel elements have infiltrated their neighborhood?? he said.

Noting that the military deployment has taken place during the election season, Pimentel said it is obviously intended to intimidate and harass barangay residents who are sympathetic or supportive to candidates who are known political opponents or critics of the Arroyo administration.

The Minority Leader also suspected that the stationing of soldiers in the urban poor communities was a pre-emptive move intended to prevent their residents from joining protest rallies against administration wrongdoing such as the persecution of certain leaders of militant party-list organizations and attempts to commit electoral fraud.

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