This story was taken from Bulatlat, the Philippines's alternative weekly newsmagazine (
Vol. VI, No. 20, June 25-July 1, 2006




Oplan Batay Laya as Arroyo’s Inhumane War

Through Oplan Bantay Laya, the Arroyo administration is conducting an inhumane war which does not distinguish between combatants and civilians and legal and underground organizations. Unless the Filipino people act to stop the killings, Philippine society will degenerate into something worse than Martial Law, not worthy of being called civilized.


President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s recent pronouncements show the government’s militarist drift and its total disregard for human rights.

Last June 16, she announced the allotment of an additional P1 billion ($18.78 million, based on an exchange rate of P53.26 per US dollar) to augment the counter-insurgency drive of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP). She also stressed the need for the Communist Party of the Philippines-New Peoples’ Army-National Democratic Front of the Philippines (CPP-NPA-NDFP) to be defeated within two years.

The Arroyo administration is being accused of having dictatorial tendencies for its repressive issuances; violently dispersing rallies; making warrantless arrests; and manufacturing witnesses and evidences.  Worse, it is still being hounded by accusations that it had a hand in the spate of political killings, which up to now remain unabated. And now it is intensifying its counter-insurgency program dubbed Oplan Bantay Laya that started in 2002.

Documents given to Bulatlat about Oplan Bantay Laya reveal that essentially, it replicates previous counter-insurgency programs of the AFP such as Oplan Katatagan of the Marcos administration during the 1980s, Oplan Lambat-Bitag I and II of the Aquino administration, Oplan Lambat-Bitag III and IV of the Ramos government, and Oplan Balangai of the Estrada administration, which resulted in numerous cases of violations of human rights and international humanitarian law.

Worse, Oplan Bantay Laya equates the underground organizations of the CPP-NPA-NDFP with what it calls “sectoral front organizations”. Its intelligence operations are focused on these “sectoral front organizations” and it treats these organizations as military targets subject to “neutralization”.  Latter documents refer to the slide presentation “Knowing the Enemy” and the book “Trinity of War” produced by the AFP as basis for identifying these “sectoral front organizations.”  This slide presentation was the subject of controversy as it identifies not only legal left parties and organizations as front organizations but also media groups such as the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) and religious organizations such as the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) and the Association of Major Religious Superiors in the Philippines (AMRSP).

Oplan Bantay Laya provides for the formulation of sectoral “orders of battle” to identify targets for neutralization with corresponding deadlines. 

This may very well explain the spate of political killings, numbering 690 as of June 20, targeting legal left parties and organizations such as Bayan Muna (People First), AnakPawis (Toiling Masses), Gabriela Women’s Party, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan or New Patriotic Alliance) Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP or Peasant Movement of the Philippines), Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU or May First Movement) and other Bayan member-organizations. 

How dangerous are these organizations? 

If working for the repeal of the Visiting Forces Agreement and the prioritization of social services over debt payments are crimes against national security, then Bayan Muna is guilty.  If pushing for a P125 ($2.35) across-the-board increase in the daily wage of workers and P3,000 ($56.33) monthly for government employees endangers democracy, then AnakPawis is culpable.  If proposing legislation to protect consumers against profiteering and women against violence, oppression and exploitation threatens the social order, Gabriela may very well be hauled to court. If protesting against the policies of deregulation, liberalization and privatization which are detrimental to the interests of Filipinos, then Bayan is dangerous. If struggling for a genuine agrarian reform program is a threat to national security, then KMP should be charged in court.  If fighting for workers’ rights is a crime against the people, then KMU should be indicted.    

These organizations work within the legal framework and are not even armed.

The trend in the number of political killings is consistent with the start of Oplan Bantay Laya.  (See Table)

Political Killings
(2001 to 2006)











(as of June 20)




Source: Karapatan

Political killings started to increase to more than 100 in 2002 when Oplan Bantay Laya was first implemented. It decreased in 2004, an election year, before an upsurge in 2005. The number of political killings for the first half of 2006 already equalled the figure for the whole of 2001.

The number of political killings under the Arroyo administration at 690 is almost half of the 1,500 recorded killings during the 14 years of Martial Law from 1972 to 1986. 

The AFP’s main areas of military operation are also the regions with the most number of political killings. Southern Tagalog which was the priority area in 2003 and 2004 topped the list with 148 killed since 2001. Central Luzon which was subjected to intense military operations after the transfer of Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan in September 2005 is second with 120 political killings.  Bicol and Davao, which were named as priority regions by the Arroyo administration and the AFP just recently followed with 84 and 63 political killings, respectively. Eastern Visayas, which was subjected to intense military operations under Palparan from February to August 2005 is sixth in the list with 41 killed. At the same time, Eastern Visayas registered a very high number of enforced disappearances at 31.   

Amando Doronila, in an analysis he wrote for the Philippine Daily Inquirer (June 21), was right in saying that Oplan Bantay Laya “opens the path to the slaughter of the defenceless.”  The Arroyo administration is conducting an inhumane war, which does not distinguish between combatants and civilians and legal and underground organizations.    

With the additional funds for Oplan Bantay Laya which targets legal personalities and organizations, and the declaration that the CPP-NPA-NDFP will be defeated in two years, one may expect more killings this year. There are already rumors that political killings are about to commence in the National Capital Region. Unless the Filipino people act to stop the killings, Philippine society will degenerate into something worse than Martial Law, not worthy of being called civilized. Bulatlat


© 2006 Bulatlat  Alipato Media Center

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