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Vol. VII, No. 8      March 25 - 31, 2007      Quezon City, Philippines











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

Having run out of counterinsurgency options Bantay Laya I & 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.

·         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. 

Operation Plan Bantay Laya

OPlan Bantay Laya is an end product of more than three decades of failures and frustrations of U.S.-GRP-AFP to crush and defeat the National Democratic people’s struggle led by the CPP-NPA-NDF in the country.               

Bantay Laya is the latest formulation of previous counterinsurgency plans initially crafted during the Marcos dictatorship. Due to reverses suffered by government forces, these plans have undergone revisions by succeeding regimes under different names: 


Name of OPlan


Marcos dictatorship


Destroy NPA guerrilla units & political infrastructure.  (Failed)


-- ditto-- (Failed) 

Aquino  & Ramos

Lambat Bitag

Strategic defeat of NPA (Failed)


--ditto-- (Failed) 



Defeat of NPA & MILF  (Failed)


--ditto--  (Failed)


Bantay Laya I

Strategic defeat of NPA (Failed)

BantayLaya II

Strategic victory over NPA (?)

(Note: In 1995 Defense Secretary De Villa declared that the AFP had attained strategic victory over the NPA. But in 1997 the AFP acknowledged that the NPA was regaining strength,)

Involved in conceptualization, planning and execution of all these plans is the U.S. government through the Pentagon and Central Intelligence Agency as has been the case since the anti-dissident campaigns against the PKP-HMB during the Magsaysay regime in the early 1950s.               

Having run out of counterinsurgency options Bantay Laya I & 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. Bantay Laya’s focus on the political component and White Area operations is best described by veteran reporter and columnist Amando Doronila in Philippine Daily Inquirer (21 June 2006):

“The blueprint of war outlined in the ‘orders of battle’ of OPlan Bantay Laya envisages decimation of non-military segments of the communist movement. It is not designed to engage the New People’s Army in armed conflict in field warfare. It is designed to butcher and massacre defenseless non-combatants. It is therefore a sinister plan for civilian butchery, a strategy which exposes the military and police to fewer risks and casualties than they would face in armed fighting with the communist guerrillas.”

In dealing with legal institutions and organizations the term “neutralize legal personalities” is conspicuous in media reports on Bantay Laya. Again we cite the following revelation of Doronila: 

                “The emphasis of this strategy on ‘neutralizing’ sectoral/front/legal organizations helps explain why most of the victims of the past five years have been non-combatants and defenseless members of the Left. During that period the number of murdered aboveground members of the Left has far exceeded fatalities of the New People’s Army in armed encounters with security forces.

                “This strategy is blamed for the systematic massacre of non-combatants. It offers a huge potential for human rights abuses and atrocities. It makes the regime look more cold-blooded in its methods in trying to crush the insurgency than its predecessors, not excluding the Marcos dictatorship. It opens the path to the slaughter of the defenseless.”

The U.S.-Arroyo regime probably believes that giving license to military commanders to carry out extra-legal draconian measures that include physical elimination of legal personalities and non-combatants will intimidate, terrorize and decapitate the National Democratic struggle leading to its demoralization, political disintegration, loss of will to struggle and eventual capitulation.

Operation Phoenix, Jakarta Solution, Death Squads

What is unfolding today under the U.S.-Arroyo regime evokes memories of Operation Phoenix conceived by the Pentagon and CIA during the Vietnam war. In this nationwide operation at least 41,000 Vietnamese legal personalities and civilians were tortured and murdered by U.S.-directed Saigon troops in a desperate bid to reverse the unfavorable trend in the war situation.

In Indonesia in 1965-66 the U.S.-supported Suharto dictatorship unleashed what came to be known as the “Jakarta solution.” This was no ordinary massacre but a “blood bath” directed against members and sympathizers of the Communist Party of Indonesia (PKI) and constituencies and followers of the Sukarno government, almost all of whom were legal personalities and plain civilians. Estimate of murdered and massacred “blood bath” victims range from a minimum of 500,000 up to a high of one million. It was reported that many rivers in Indonesia where the bodies were dumped turned bright red and maintained that color for many days.

In Latin America CIA-supported and trained “death squads” carried out systematic assassinations, murders and massacres of tens of thousands of legal personalities in Guatemala, Uruguay, Chile, Argentina, Bolivia, Peru, Colombia, Nicaragua and El Salvador where US-supported dictatorships reigned since the decade of the 1950s.

The “Final Solution”

As mentioned earlier Bantay Laya was conceptualized and planned by the U.S.-Arroyo regime as a “final solution” in a desperate bid to put an end to more than three decades of failures and frustrations in dealing with the protracted  National Democratic struggle.

As reported in the Philippine Daily Inquirer (18 June 2006), one military official ended a briefing on Bantay Laya with this statement: “We have been in this game for decades. Perhaps it is time to put into play an endgame strategy (read: ‘final solution’) that will terminate this lingering problem.” Included in the same report” “This is it. If this won’t work, I don’t know what else would,” a key security official and one of the key movers of Bantay Laya told the reporter.

From media reports on government internal security operations, campaign plan Balanghai and other aspects of counterinsurgency, one will come to understand why the need for OPlan Bantay Laya I and Bantay Laya II by a crisis-ridden and desperate US-Arroyo regime:

·         An AFP assessment carried by media that the resurgence of the local communist movement is continuing and the trend needs to be reversed.

·         Media sources cited the AFP itself admitting that its forces suffered more casualties than the NPA in 2005.

·         The launching of Bantay Laya II in December 2006 was an admission of failure of Bantay Laya I (whose objective was the strategic defeat of the NPA) during the previous five years. AFP Chief of Staff Esperon said that Bantay Laya II  is a 3-year campaign plan whose main objective is strategic victory over the CPP-NPA-NDF by the end of Arroyo’s term in 2010. 

A  Dim View of Bantay Laya

In its desperate bid to put an end to the protracted people’s struggle, the planners of Bantay Laya are constrained by ideological “blinders.” Unlike the CPP-NPA-NDF, the U.S.-GRP-AFP “think tank” cannot come out openly and honestly with what may be considered as the “bottom line” in the protracted conflict – the reality of existing antagonistic socio-economic classes, acute and intense class contradictions, and seemingly open-ended class conflict in Philippine society.

It is most likely that Bantay Laya II will also end up in failure and frustration as was the fate of previous counterinsurgency operations of former regimes. Mounting human rights violations and atrocities inflicted on an oppressed and long-suffering people only intensifies class contradictions and alienation. But the high cost in human lives, personal trauma and sufferings of victims of the present “dirty war” may in the long run far exceed the “crimes against humanity” of previous regimes combined.

An explanation of successive failures of AFP counterinsurgency operations may be summarized as follows:

  • Bantay Laya, being no different in essence from the infamous counterinsurgency operations of the Marcos dictatorship, can only be described as an act of state terrorism and a continuing crime against humanity. It serves only the narrow interests of a minority in Philippine society – local and foreign big business capitalist predators who have connived with the Arroyo regime in frustrating the basic rights and interests of workers condemned to slave wages and job insecurity; landlords with private armies who have condemned the peasantry to perpetual serfdom and hand-to-mouth existence as was their fate since the Spanish colonial era. In brief, the defenders of a semi-feudal and neocolonial system cannot be expected to be the defenders of the marginalized, dispossessed, exploited and oppressed toiling masses. Bantay Laya and its “holistic approach” to insurgency will flounder for as long as it defends and protects an inequitable, unjust and anti-masses social order.

  • As long as the AFP remains a mercenary instrument of US imperialist interests and the local dominant classes in Philippine society, it will always be faced with irreconcilable contradictions in dealing with the vast majority of the Filipino people. It will face constantly increasing odds in meeting the challenge of the CPP-NPA-NDF in “winning the hearts and minds” of the broad masses.

  • A recent phenomenon that has added to the insecurity and uncertainties of the Arroyo regime is the gradual awakening of members of the AFP to the unabated corruption and moral decay in government and within the armed forces. This explains why today scores of decent officers in the army and marines are confined in detention centers. They have become “disaffected” with a regime they perceive has lost the people’s support and must now rely on the bayonet for political survival.

Delusion on People’s Support

Meanwhile, as assassinations, murders, massacres, tortures and disappearances of innocent civilians and legal personalities continue to mount, the U.S.-Arroyo regime and its armed forces continue to suffer from a delusion that they have the support of the people. Given the large disparity in manpower, material and financial resources (plus U.S. military assistance) between the AFP and NPA, if the former had the support of the broad masses, the CPP-NPA-NDF would have long been crushed, defeated and relegated to a footnote in Philippine history. Posted by Bulatlat




© 2007 Bulatlat  Alipato Publications

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