Writer-artist decries military surveillance

MANILA, Philippines – A noted writer and artist who is also a professor at the University of the Philippines (UP) in Diliman decried Wednesday what he said was the surveillance amounting to harassment done on him by alleged military intelligence personnel.

The revelation of Jun Cruz Reyes followed the apprehension last week of a Marine enlisted personnel caught spying on the Quezon City home of National Artist Bienvenido Lumbera.

The incident prompted the Philippine Navy, which claimed the bungling spy was a trainee in its intelligence course, to apologize to Lumbera and promise not to target civilians in testing its trainees.

Reyes, who lives in Sta. Elena, Bulacan, told a press conference at UP, where he teaches at the Institute of Creative Writing, that he first noticed he was being spied on in August 2007, when men who appeared to be soldiers tried to get into his house but fled when his dog alerted neighbors to their presence.

Soon after this incident, his dog was poisoned.

In November that year, he said men in fatigue uniforms went to a neighbor’s house and offered to pay P20,000 to tell them where he had gone.

This month, he said his house was again placed under surveillance twice.

On September 10, around eight men in a white van parked outside his home around 11:30 p.m.

Three days later, on September 13, another van, black this time, again parked outside his house for a while and then left.

He said on the same day, while he was taking a snack inside the UP campus, an unidentified man approached him and suddenly took his picture without his consent.

Reyes has won, among others, the Don Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature, National Book Awards, and Catholic Mass Media Awards. He is also a painter and sculptor.

He said he is not aware of anything he could have done to make him a target of military surveillance.

that could’ve offend the State, that he will become a target by the military surveillance. The only thing he could recall was a friend’s warning in 2006 that he was supposedly in an “order of battle” of the Philippine Army.

The dreaded OB is seen as a virtual list of targets for liquidation.

Jestingly, Reyez said the surveillance on his was “primitive” since those spying on him could easily get to know him better by searching for information on the worldwide web.

But Reyes’ lawyer, Jules Matibag, said they are “seriously considering” filing a petition for a writ of amparo and habeas data for the writer’s protection.

The human rights group Karapatan (Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights) suggested that the military has begun targeting artists because of their potential for shaping public opinion.

“They (artists) help form public opinion and give a creative analysis of what’s happening. They are telling the story in a precise manner easily understood by the masses,” Karapatan chair Marie Hilao-Enriquez said.

She said the surveillance on Reyes and Lumbera showed a “pattern” and was “not only a violation of their right to privacy but is also a threat to their security and the victims have reasons to fear for their safety.”

Hilao-Enriquez also worried for the safety of the two noting that heavy surveillance had invariably preceded the abductions or murders of activists and dissenters. (Dateline Philippines)