P-Noy to announce new counterinsurgency strategy Tuesday

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/18 December) – President Benigno Simeon Aquino will announce his administration’s counterinsurgency strategy during the 75th anniversary of the Armed Forces of the Philippines on Tuesday, December 21, the chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said.

General Ricardo David, who was in Davao City early this week, said the AFP’s new campaign plan will replace the Oplan Bantay Laya (OBL) program which has been blamed for extrajudicial killings of political activists in the country.

David said the AFP’s new campaign plan, called the internal peace and security program (IPSP) or Bayanihan, will put “more emphasis on human rights” and will see to it that soldiers keep in mind their twin mandate: protecting the people and protecting the state.

“It’s very important because it will be implemented under the entire term of his presidency,” David said.

“We’ve been discussing the new campaign plan of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, ito ang tinatawag nating (we call it the) internal peace and security program, Bayanihan,” he said in a visit to Camp Panacan. “It should be the centerpiece program of the AFP in 2011,” he said.

He said Bayanihan, which has already been “discussed” in major command centers and even with other sectors, including the academe, will be “properly introduced by the (President, who is also the) Commander in Chief, during the 75th anniversary of AFP.”

“The President has been completely supporting the plan and has directed all agencies to help realize this peace and security program of the government,” he said.

“Soldiers are the guardian of human rights. The mandate of soldiers is to protect the rights of the people and the rights of the state,” he said. “Usually, we protect the rights of the state. We often forget the other.”

He also said the entire mission is about “winning peace.”

“It’s not enough that we are defeating them (NPAs), what is more important is bringing peace and development in the community.”

“Let our troops be conscious of the rules of engagement in the conduct of operation,” he said. “The chain of command at all levels must know about human rights and internalize what it is all about.” The military, he added, “should be subordinated to civilian supremacy.”

Col Leopoldo R Galon Jr., Group Commander of 5th Civil Relations Group (CRG) explained before David’s arrival that the new counterinsurgency plan will directly involve the support of the local government units and other sectors, with the military only in the background, to “flush out” the Communist New People’s Army (NPA) out of their bases.

The human rights group Karapatan, however, regards the AFP’s campaign plan as a ploy. Hanimay Suazo, deputy secretary-general of Karapatan in Southern Mindanao, said the AFP’s so-called “peace and security agenda” only masks the harassments of peasants and the violations of  human rights in the countryside.

Bishop Felixberto Calang, convenor of Barug Katungod Mindanao, said he cannot trust the military to implement human rights protection when it has been accused of human rights violations from the time of martial law, the Arroyo administration and even until now.

In its year-end report released during the December 10 celebration of International Human Rights Day, Karapatan wrote that while Aquino extended the previous administration’s OBL counterinsurgency strategy, his generals “crafted a replacement.” Karapatan described the new strategy as a “derivative of the components of the United States counterinsurgency guide.”

“Noynoy’s public relations weavers conjure an Oplan (operation plan) that is ‘respectful’ of human rights,” the report said. “The opposite is shown by the initial months of Noynoy Aquino’s rule, which surpassed the number of extrajudicial killings in the first six months of the previous administration.”(Germelina Lacorte/MindaNews)