First of three parts
In the long-drawn war against the Marxist guerrillas where force takes the lead, the country’s security forces have had a reproachable record in human rights threatening even legitimate political dissent, the peaceful advocacy of radical reform and, now, the use of the legislature to push for patriotic and progressive legislation.
BY BOBBY TUAZON
“We have been in this game for decades. Perhaps it is high time to put into play an end-game strategy that will terminate this lingering problem.”
Thus reads a briefing paper on Operation Plan Bantay Laya (or Oplan Freedom Watch – OBL), a strategic plan of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) that was implemented beginning 2002. Shortly thereafter, OBL, originally designed against the Abu Sayyaf – a kidnap-for-ransom group that acquired a U.S. spin as a “terrorist” – was extended as a strategy against the No. 1 “state enemy” – the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and its armed component, the New People’s Army (NPA).
Echoing this “end-game strategy” against the underground Left – which has waged an armed struggle since 1969 – Defense Secretary Avelino Cruz vowed in 2005 to crush the country’s major “national security threat” in six to 10 years. Early this year, Macapagal-Arroyo’s Cabinet Oversight Committee on Internal Security (COC-IS) adjusted OBL as the “Enhanced National Internal Security Plan.” Government had earlier suspended unilaterally the Joint Agreement on Security and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG), an 11-year-old accord signed jointly by the peace panels of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP). Denounced by the NDFP as in violation of the terms of the internationally-recognized accord itself, the act stripped NDFP personnel, consultants and staffs of security and immunity guarantees thus making them vulnerable to military and police attacks.
In the campaign against the armed Left, OBL or the internal security plan was to be carried out in priority regions combining combat, intelligence and civil-military operations. But reports say the Oplan also stresses the “neutralization” of communists’ “sectoral front organizations” to make it effective. By experience and as understood by rights watchdogs and militant groups, to “neutralize” translates into physical elimination.
Neither the presumptive President of the Republic, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, nor her defense department has denied the existence of the AFP’s top secret military strategy against the armed Left. In fact a few weeks ago, as commander in chief, Macapagal-Arroyo directed the AFP to finish off the Leftist “insurgency” in two years instead of six or 10, and earmarked an additional P1 billion to boost the counter-insurgency military offensives. She had earlier mobilized the Philippine National Police (PNP) for counter-insurgency operations making this campaign a joint military-police program.