Make no mistake, the AFP will continue to use force and state violence, but this time couched in concepts such as “sustainable development”. It vows the “intensified and relentless pursuit of the NPA”.
The AFP’s Special Operations Teams “shall transition to peace and development teams (PDT)” and will be at the “forefront” of Bayanihan. The AFP will also continue to implement the Triad Operations concept of simultaneous conduct of combat, intelligence and civil-military operations (CMO).
Bayanihan defines CMO’s as “planned activities undertaken independently or in coordination with civilian entities in support to(sic) the accomplishment of AFP mission to gain popular support and weaken the will of the enemy to fight. It is characterized by activities that influence the beliefs, emotion, behaviors, attitudes and opinions of selected target audience; it establishes and maintains good relations between military forces, civil authorities and the civilian populace to facilitate military operations in support to the accomplishment of the AFP mission”.
Bayanihan aims to apply “social pressure” on the NPA, for them to abandon armed struggle. The AFP invokes a patently ahistorical assertion that “the use of armed struggle to attain political ends is not acceptable to the Filipino people and to any civilized society”.
In relation to the NPA, the IPSP recommends the use of non-combat military activates involving “public information campaigns, civic action programs, development related projects and collaborative activities with government and non-government stakeholders, among others.”
We have seen how these programs were implemented during the urban militarization of Metro Manila in 2007. The AFP CMO’s conducted an aggressive vilification (information) campaign against legal progressive groups while conducting civic action programs like school repairs and roadworks. The presence of fully-armed soldiers was intended to intimidate residents. Civic projects were also used to gather intelligence info on the community residents.
The AFP says that the internal security operations “shall be within the national government’s peace framework” and that the military will subscribe to the “primacy of the peace process”.
In the context of Bayanihan, the peace process is viewed as the only viable option for the NPA when it realizes the “futility of their armed struggle”. The goal is to “pressure” the NPA into engaging the peace negotiations and into accepting a framework of surrender or capitulation.
Conversely, Oplan Bantay Laya also raises questions as to the sincerity of the national government when it engages in peace negotiations with the NDF. It appears that the government peace efforts are only aimed at getting the NDF and the revolutionary forces to capitulate, and not at seriously addressing the root causes of the armed conflict.
The AFP vows to pursue its primary role in the peace process, that of ensuring that “the group with whom the government is talking peace with will not use force or the threat of force as leverage at the negotiating table”. The AFP will continue to employ armed force as a necessary means for the Philippine government to gain the upper hand in the peace talks.
Oplan Bayanihan makes repeated reference to the observance of human rights and international humanitarian law, calling them “imperatives” in the pursuit of internal peace and security. It claims that its use of force “will always be within the bounds… of IHL, HR and the rule of law”. It calls for the establishment of Human Rights Offices or desks down to the battalion level. The AFP also vows to use of “deliberate, accurate and precise” military operations aimed “only against armed insurgents”.
The proof of the pudding is in the eating. Take the case of, the 19th IB’s less-than-accurate operations in Kanangga, Leyte that led to the killing of top botanist Leonard Co and two companions last November 15, 2010. The case has not been resolved and the AFP has since claimed that the death was the result of an alleged crossfire with the NPA even if testimonies and evidence point otherwise. There has been no result in the internal investigation of the AFP, if any was conducted at all. No official has been made accountable.
There also appears to be no change in the way the AFP views the legal progressive organizations as being “communist fronts”. There is no explicit “paradigm shift” in this regard. This lays the conditions for the continued attacks on unarmed activists. Even under the Aquino government, attacks against legal and unarmed activists have continued in the form of extrajudicial killings, illegal arrests and the filing of trumped up charges.
What is disturbing and dangerous with the US COIN guide is that it allows a wide range of US intervention in the internal affairs of a country. Oplan Bayanihan, being inspired by the US COIN Guide, allows such forms of intervention whether as advisory roles, civil-military assistance or direct intervention. Foreign development aid can be poured into the country to boost the counterinsurgency thrusts of the Aquino government.
Another interesting area of study and research would be on the types of NGO’s that engage the AFP in the framework of Bayanihan. How independent are they to the national government? What type of foreign funding do they receive? How do they conduct their “development work”?
The AFP’s Oplan Bayanihan is a reflection of the socio-economic and socio-political thrusts of the current Aquino administration. It is only as effective as the framework of governance being offered by the ruling regime. Since Aquino has not addressed the basic issues at the root of the armed conflict, such as land reform, national industrialization, national sovereignty, social justice and genuine democracy, the counterinsurgency program will continue to fail in meeting its objectives. Aquino’s adherence to neo-liberal policies and subservience to foreign dictates will only worsen the domestic crisis and provide basis for the persistence of the armed conflict.
With the new IPSP, deception will go hand in hand with state-sponsored violence. Bayanihan will use combat and non-combat operations as well as government and non-government efforts to achieve the end goal of containing armed rebellion. Bayanihan denies the historical root causes of the armed conflict, treating them as a mere problems of “perception of relative deprivation”. Whatever “development” that the IPSP advances will only be superficial and aimed at deceiving the people in order to control and suppress them.