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Two renowned writers allegedly placed under surveillance by armed forces

(CMFR/IFEX) - The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) have allegedly placed two renowned Filipino writers under surveillance.

Bienvenido Lumbera, a National Artist for Literature and a professor at the University of the Philippines (UP), is planning to file charges with the Philippines Human Rights Commission against the AFP after a marine corporal was caught taking photographs of his residence in Quezon City on 17 September 2009.

The alleged spy, who was apprehended by security guards at the gated community where Lumbera lives, was identified as Marine Corporal Hannival Mondido Guerrero.

Navy Lt. Col Edgardo Arevalo confirmed that Guerrero was indeed a member of the armed forces and was conducting "information verification" as part of his "surveillance training" at the Naval Intelligence Training Institute. In a 17 September article, however, the "Philippine Daily Inquirer" newspaper reported that Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita said Guerrero was not on the Navy's master list ( ).

Nonetheless, Arevalo was quoted in the "Philippine Daily Inquirer" article as saying, "We would like to apologise to Professor Lumbera for whatever inconvenience the incident caused him."

Lumbera told GMANews.TV that he would still file charges against the AFP ( ). "I accept their apology, but I don't necessarily believe the details they said," Lumbera said on 18 September.

As a result of the Lumbera incident, another writer reported that he has been under military surveillance since 2006.

During a 22 September 2009 press conference, UP professor and fiction writer Pedro "Jun" Cruz Reyes detailed incidents which suggest that the military allegedly spied on him. He said the latest incidents took place in early September.

In an affidavit quoted by GMA-7's primetime news programme "24 oras", Reyes said, "Last 13 September 2009, around 8 p.m., (a) man pulled out two mobile phones. He used one to take my picture (without permission)" ( ).

As early as 2006, the online news magazine "Bulatlat" reported that Reyes was in the army's "Order of Battle" in Bulacan, a province near Manila ( ). Moreover, in 2007, unidentified men tried to enter his house, said Reyes.

At first, Reyes said he didn't pay too much attention. "I was busy with my doctoral degree at UP Diliman. I also got preoccupied with writing my dissertation for the doctoral degree. But now, as time goes by, their surveillance and harassment of me is assuming a more definite form."

Critical writers, journalists, and media organisations have been targets of surveillance by the AFP. In 2009, journalist Carlos Conde found that he had been included in a 2007 "Order of Battle" of the AFP 10th Infantry Division. The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines has also been tagged as an "enemy of the state" by the military.

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