Oplan Bantay Laya: U.S.-Arroyo Regime’s ‘Final Solution’

Having run out of counterinsurgency options Bantay Laya I and II appear to be the U.S.-Arroyo regime’s “final solution” to the long drawn-out conflict. A novel and significant feature is its special emphasis on punitive measures in dealing with the political component of the insurgency. This includes suppressive measures against Congressional Party List representatives and constituencies and “neutralization” of legal institutions and organizations..

Contributed to Bulatlat

To fully understand the worsening human rights situation in the Philippines one must take certain facts into account:

First, President Gloria Arroyo now depends mainly on the US-supported and trained Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) for political survival.

Second, the AFP today is the same military institution that served as the punitive instrument of the erstwhile Marcos dictatorship. Except that the overzealous junior officers who committed or were responsible for human rights violations under Marcos have become generals and field-grade officers of the repressive AFP in the Arroyo regime.

Third, the AFP continues to serve as an instrument of suppression and extra-legal operations under the Arroyo regime with the support, advice and guidance of US counterinsurgency and anti-terrorism agencies, i.e., Department of Defense & Central Intelligence Agency.

Fourth, since Arroyo became president in 2001, human rights organization Karapatan (as of February 2007) has documented 833 legal personalities as victims of assassinations, 357 as survivors of assassination attempts, and 198 as victims of involuntary disappearance (desaparecidos). Hundreds of thousands have become victims of forced evacuations and sub-human conditions in concentration centers due to never-ending military operations in the countryside. This is the consequence of all-out war or so-called “holistic approach” in Operation Plan Bantay Laya that has been carried out by the Arroyo regime since 2002.

Fifth, civil and military authorities (such as the Cabinet Oversight Committee in the Executive Branch) categorically assert that there is no government policy that advocates or condones human rights violations as a means to an end, i.e., the defeat of the long drawn-out insurgency in the country. Needless to say, no government in its right mind will admit even an attempt to commit illegal and extra-legal acts and practices in its counterinsurgency campaigns.

Yet it is public knowledge that the US-Arroyo regime has been carrying out an unwritten policy that manifests itself through a pattern of extra-judicial killings, assassinations and attempted assassinations of legal personalities in the execution of counterinsurgency plans. That such heinous crimes are actually happening with regularity throughout the country as fully documented by human rights organizations and factually reported by the mass media cannot be denied. Nor can it be denied that despite a surfeit of government investigators and prosecutors, no honest-to-goodness and conclusive investigation and prosecution of extra-judicial killings and other human rights violations have been conducted under the US-Arroyo regime.

Total denial of a formal and written policy is one thing; covert implementation of an unwritten policy on extra-judicial killings and other atrocities against legal personalities is another!

Sixth, the alarming human rights situation in the Philippines has been confirmed by the recent findings of United Nations Special Rapporteur Philip Alston after a 10-day inquiry into phenomenon of extra-legal killings of legal personalities by the military. The AFP’s vehement total denial and Justice Secretary Raul Gonzales’ slander that Alston was brainwashed by “leftist” groups only bolstered the credibility of the findings. Actually the data cited by Alston are already common knowledge to the majority of the Filipino people and even to many decent members of the AFP.

Seventh, latest findings of reliable opinion survey institutions in the country – Social Weather Station, Pulse Asia, and Ibon Foundation – show that the majority of those surveyed nationwide are for the ouster of Arroyo from the presidency. Reasons given are:

· Gross and systematized cheating in the 2004 presidential elections with the connivance of members of the Commission on Elections and AFP generals who, later, were rewarded with promotions to the highest positions in the armed forces by Arroyo.

· Gross and systematized cheating in the 2004 presidential elections with the connivance of members of the Commission on Elections and AFP generals who, later, were rewarded with promotions to the highest positions in the armed forces by Arroyo.

· Graft and corruption. On many occasions media has reported the involvement of Arroyo and her husband on irregular and questionable deals in large government projects. The latest corruption survey conducted among foreign businessmen in Asia by the Hongkong-based Political and Economic Risk Consultancy shows that the Philippines is now perceived as the most corrupt in the region.

· Deterioration in the human rights situation in the country. Information gathered by media and CMO-sponsored public assemblies reveal special emphasis given to the political component and White Area operations in Oplan Bantay Laya. This is reflected in the surge in extra-judicial killings of legal personalities and extra-legal suppressive measures against legal institutions and organizations.

· AFP commander-in-chief Arroyo’s involvement in the worsening human rights situation was most conspicuous in her special recognition of Gen. Jovito Palparan. In the whole armed forces, Palparan’s various commands had the most notorious record in extra-judicial killings of legal personalities. Despite vehement public outcry and intense opposition from human rights organizations, Arroyo rewarded Palparan with rapid promotions to brigadier general and major general.

· Deteriorating economic situation. The Arroyo regime now focuses on the improved value of the peso vis-à-vis the dollar. What it fails to mention is the increasing number of Filipinos who are suffering from hunger and malnutrition, job insecurity and lack of local employment opportunity in the country that forces the unemployed and underemployed to accept any kind of exploitative job overseas. Making matters worse is Arroyo’s connivance with big business in perpetuating slave wages for the working class.

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