Bu-lat-lat (boo-lat-lat) verb: to search, probe, investigate, inquire; to unearth facts
Volume 2, Number 34 September 29 - October 5, 2002 Quezon City, Philippines
Ex-Cafgu Finds A New Cause
14, Alberto “Boy” Garcia was toting an M-14 and, as a paramilitary member,
was in the frontline in the fight against the NPA in a barrio at the foot of Mt.
Kanlaon in Negros Occidental. He’s on the other side now and is leading
another fight in his village – this time to protect he and fellow-farmers’
land against a government project.
Hannah A. Papasin
Former CAFGU-turned-farmers’ leader Alberto “Boy” Garcia talks to members of the fact-finding mission last week. ‘We were only used as cannon fodder,” he says in retrospect. Photo by Visayas Courier/Bulatlat.com
BAGO CITY – Alberto “Boy” Garcia was only 14 when he was playing hide-and-seek with what he thought were his enemies. The game was not a mock war: his enemies were New People’s Army (NPA) guerrillas. And he was carrying a deadly M-14.
At a tender age, Boy had been recruited into the Citizens’ Armed Force Geographical Unit (Cafgu), a paramilitary group mobilized by President Corazon Aquino in the mid-1980s to support her “total war” policy against the NPA.
Boy was not alone – members of his family were also serving other paramilitary units. Along with the Greenans, the Pulahans and Puti-ans, he was also waging a war against fellow farmers suspected to be NPA sympathizers.
Now, government has found a way of repaying Boy and its other loyal servants – landgrabbing. Boy says he’s one of many farmer residents of Sitio (sub-village) Pataan, Barangay Mailum, of this city or some 40 kms south of Bacolod who is facing dislocation, no thanks to the entry of the state-owned Philippine National Oil Company (PNOC).
Now 29, Boy, who has since severed his ties with the Cafgu and now chairs the Mailum United Farmers Association, says that PNOC officials lured Mailum farmers into signing documents. They were made to believe that PNOC was going to pay any damage to their land as a result of the project.
It turns out that the documents were actually waivers – the residents were surrendering their rights to their land to give way to the PNOC project. Payments to damages were also lower than the actual claims made by the residents.
in the family
This apparent deception, Boy now says, is unacceptable. And he’s bitter about how he and many residents of Mailum are being repaid by government despite their years of military service.
He, his father and other members of the Garcia family had served in government’s counter-insurgency campaign.
“In Sitio Pataan, almost all residents here were CAFGUs,” Boy says, adding that he knew of a detachment whose key members were members of one family – from grandfather to apo, which is not surprising since government was recruiting even minors for its anti-insurgency campaign.
Boy recalls that he and practically the whole Pataan village were recruited “to maintain peace and order and rid the area of the NPA.” “We were used during the total war of President Cory because we believed that we could help the government,” he said.
He also says that he is now at odds with his brother, who has stuck it out with the paramilitary. “Handa ko na iya mag-atubang sina. Ginhambalan ko siya, ‘CAFGU ka man gihapon… Si Tatay ta, CAFGU man ato hasta na patay, pero ano ang kaayuhan nga nakuha ta. Gina-bala lang kita sa kanyon kag bayaan (I told him that I am ready to face the consequences, I even asked him ‘look at you, you are still a Cafgu, our father was a Cafgu until he died but what good did it bring us, we are only being used as cannon fodder’)“ he said.
Boy, the Cafgu-turned-mass leader has shown his enthusiasm to lead others like him who have become victims of what they say is government-perpetrated landgrabbing. Bulatlat.com