Most mainstream news reports and opinion pieces about University of the Philippines (UP) Manila student Jo Lapira who was among the dead following a clash between the Philippine military and the New People’s Army (NPA) in Batangas the other day report who she was to friends. Rappler, for one, cites how Lapira was “a tiny activist with big dreams.”
But according to an Inquirer report, Lapira may have been a combatant and, as such, an enemy casualty in the Philippines’ war against the NPA…
Lapera [sic] was the 15th fatality in the encounter between New People’s Army rebels and the Philippine Air Force in Nasugbu Batangas on Tuesday evening.
Fourteen rebels were killed in the clash while two Air Force officials were wounded. Of the 15, five of them were female, [Police Sr. Supt. Alden Delvo, Batangas provincial director] said.
Lapira was also reportedly a one-time deputy chairman of GABRIELA, an advocacy group supposedly focused on furthering women’s issues but, underneath this veneer, maintains close ties with the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).
Back in 2012, groups composed of former “Red rebels” jointly named GABRIELA as one of several militant groups that are “fronts for the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), its armed wing New People’s Army (NPA) and their negotiating panel the National Democratic Front (NDF).”
The rebel returnee groups went on to say that the Makabayan groups with sitting representatives in Congress were channeling their P70-million pork barrel to fund the NPA.
“How can party-list groups that support the overthrow of the government and the country’s political system be allowed to participate in the party-list elections?” [People’s Advocacy for Collaboration and Empowerment (PEACE) president Agnes Lopez] said in an e-mailed statement.
As an affiliate of the CPP, GABRIELA also seems to enjoy certain special “services” from the NPA. Back in 2004, the Philippine Star featured a Philippine Police report asserting how the NPA “mobilized local cadres and followers to ensure the victory of six leftist party-list groups” in the national elections held that year. Among these, GABRIELA was also named.
Senior Superintendent Rodolfo Mendoza, a senior police intelligence officer who has worked in counter-insurgency operations for the past 20 years, said CPP-NPA chairman Jose Ma. Sison has given the marching orders to the members of the local communist movement to use all means to ensure that these party-list groups gain a seat in the House of Representatives.
Mendoza identified the groups being supported by the CPP-NPA as Bayan Muna, Anak ng Bayan, Gabriela Women’s Party, Anak Pawis, Migrante and the Suara Bangsamoro Party.
What Sison meant by using “all means” to win the election is subject to debate, although most Filipinos would have a pretty clear idea what that really means.
So perhaps, Jo Lapira may have been a “tiny activist with big dreams” to her friends. But to the rest of Filipinos, she could likely be just another casualty in their country’s war against a persistent terrorist threat.
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