Second of two parts
Oplan Bayanihan is based on flawed premises and a denial of the historical roots and basis of the armed conflict in the country. Oplan Bayanihan offers no clear and precise analysis of why people take up arms against the government in the first place. Failing to understand the root causes of the armed conflict will inevitably lead to a failed response.
In the section on “Strategic Environment” which deals with the socio-economic and socio-political context of the armed conflict, Bayanihan describes the “economic environment” of the country. It admits that there is “inequitable distribution of wealth and unequal economic opportunities” that “result in a wide income gap between social classes”.
However, Bayanihan also says that “there is no direct causal link between low economic status and armed conflict”. What exists are “perceptions of relative deprivation” which are “correlated with the emergence and persistence of conflict in the Philippines”.
For the AFP, it is the “perception of relative deprivation” and not concrete socio-economic and political issues like landlessness, unemployment and injustice that drive people to take up arms against the government. For the AFP, solving the “root causes” of armed conflict boils down to changing people’s perceptions without having to change their socio-economic conditions.
For example, building a road in a barrio can create the perception of development even if farmers remain landless and at the mercy of their landlords.
Even injustice is perceived by the AFP as a mere “exploitable” issue by the revolutionary forces. To again quote Oplan Bayanihan, “the slow dispensation of justice, especially in rural areas pushes people to rely on extra-legal means of retribution and restitution.. For instance, parochial concerns such as land disputes can escalate and lead to the degeneration of internal peace and security in a wider area. The inadequacies in the justice system therefore provide threat groups another exploitable issue to discredit the government and encourage armed dissent.”
Land disputes, such as those in Hacienda Luisita, cannot be considered parochial or simply an “exploitable issue” against government. The issue of landlessness has historical roots based on state policies and is the biggest hindrance to national development and poverty eradication. The AFP and the government policy-makers show an utter lack of understanding of this social phenomenon, and whatever response they may undertake will likely be superficial.
The “development work” advocated by Oplan Bayanihan is not aimed at addressing the socio-economic and socio-political root causes of rebellion nor is it aimed at changing the economic conditions of the people. The aim is to change the people’s “perceptions” of government towards “winning their sentiments” while marginalizing the “insurgents”. There is a common term for this. It’s called psy-war.
Oplan Bayanihan professes a paradigm shift through its “whole of nation” and “people-centered” approach. These concepts are not entirely new and are lifted from the US Counter-Insurgency Guide of 2009.
The US Interagency COIN Initiative uses the “whole of government, whole of society” concept in carrying out counter-insurgency operations. It also distinguishes between an “enemy-centric approach” and a “people-centered approach”
The “whole of nation approach” aims to engage the different stakeholders who will share the concept, responsibility and burden of achieving peace and security. Bayanihan describes the stakeholders as the government, the non-government organizations and “civil society” groups and “the entire Filipino citizenry”. It aims to harmonize (shared concept) and mobilize (shared responsibility) both government and non-government assets for the counter-insurgency thrusts of the AFP.
The IPSP enumerated the different government agencies whose “function and roles directly impinge on internal peace and security”.
The DILG is said to take the lead in the matter of good governance. The Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process or OPAPP helps in facilitating peace negotiations while the DFA gets foreign support for the counter-insurgency initiatives. The DSWD will assist internally displaced persons (IDPs) and other individuals affected by armed conflict. The DPWH will be involved for the construction of infrastructure while the DOH and DepEd will be involved in the delivery of other services.