Residents wary as soldiers return to Manila slums 

By Carlos H. Conde
International Herald Tribune
Published: March 11, 2007

MANILA: Christine Colsuegra is not used to seeing uniformed men brandishing rifles in her neighborhood, a slum area in Quezon City, adjoining Manila. But one day in December, they came looking for her mother.

“I was terrified,” Colsuegra, 11, explained. “I kept telling myself that there was nothing to be afraid of.”

In several poor neighborhoods in the capital region, the military has moved in, sometimes supplementing the activities of the police, but also, human rights advocates say, targeting leftist agitators and government opponents for harassment.

Colsuegra’s mother, Auret, 46, is well known in the area. She heads a neighborhood association that deals with the problems of residents, like the demolition of their houses. She also helps organize anti-government demonstrations, often on issues like wages, high food prices and homelessness.

Auret Colsuegra said the military considers her a troublemaker.

“That is why the soldiers have been watching me and my family,” she said. “Every time I step out of my house, I always have this feeling that it might be the last.”

Not since the martial law imposed by the dictator Ferdinand Marcos in the 1970s and ’80s have residents of the Manila region seen soldiers in full battle gear stationed in their communities, said Gloria Rodriguez, secretary general of the Manila chapter of Karapatan, a human rights organization.

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