Oplan Bayanihan: Grand psywar scheme and continuing violence against the people

Posted: January 17, 2011 in Human Rights, Socio-Political
Tags: , , , ,

by Renato M. Reyes, Jr.

January 18, 2011


Last December 22, 2010, President Benigno Aquino III unveiled the new Internal Peace and Security Plan (IPSP) that would replace the bloody Oplan Bantay Laya. The plan was called Oplan Bayanihan, and was touted as a “paradigm shift” for the AFP. As if to stress the shift, the AFP is no longer using the term “Internal Security Plan” or ISP. It has added the word “peace” to the concept, hence IPSP. The term IPSP is also often used instead of “counter-insurgency”.

What is Oplan Bayanihan?

Oplan Bayanihan is the new Internal Peace and Security Plan (IPSP) that aims to “provide the strategic guidance in the performance of (the AFP’s) mandated functions of protecting the state and the people. It shall help AFP units in planning for and contributing to the attainment of internal peace and security.”

As with previous ISP’s like Bantay Laya, Oplan Bayanihan is the AFP framework in dealing with so-called armed “threat groups”. Bayanihan classifies “threat groups” into three:  “ideology-based groups” such as the CPP-NPA-NDF, the MILF and “rogue” MNLF factions; “terrorist” groups such as the Abu Sayyaf, JI and other Foreign Terrorist Organizations; and last, the “auxiliary threat groups” which include “partisan armed groups”, private armies and some criminal groups.

The new Oplan has eight main sections:  Purpose, Strategic Environment, National Strategic Guidance, National Defense Strategy, Strategic Assumptions, AFP Mission for Internal Peace and Security, AFP Strategy for Internal Peace and Security and Conclusion.

The AFP says that Oplan Bayanihan is a public document which aims to gather support from various stakeholders. We were able to request a copy of the document through the AFP’s Civil Relations Service. The “public” document of course does not include the implementing guidelines of the new Oplan.

What are its salient features?

Oplan Bayanihan claims to take its cue from the pronouncements of President Benigno Aquino III calling for a “multi-stakeholder approach to peace and security”.  It says that the current administration’s national security thrust involves four specific elements: governance, delivery of basic services, economic reconstruction and sustainable development, and security sector reform.

The new IPSP also claims to espouse a “whole-of-nation” and “people-centered” approach, implying that it is different from the previous ISP’s that espoused an “enemy-centric approach.”

Bayanihan says that it seeks the involvement of various stakeholders, “from the national and local government agencies, non-government entities and the entire citizenry, in addressing peace and security concerns”. It also claims to give “equal emphasis to combat and non-combat dimensions of military operations”. It claims to be a “departure from the old parameters and explores non-combat parameters of success in addressing the country’s peace and security problem.”

The AFP has been fighting a four-decade old armed rebellion led by the CPP-NPA-NDF. Despite the promise of every president since Marcos regarding the defeat of the revolutionary movement, no president has ever succeeded in delivering on this promise. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo attempted during her last three years and failed. This much was admitted by the AFP when it failed to meet its self-imposed deadline on defeating the revolutionary movement.

What is the ultimate objective of Oplan Bayanihan?

Bayanihan’s “end-state” or ultimate objective is the reduction of the “capabilities of internal armed threats…to a level that they can no longer threaten the stability of the state and civil authorities can ensure the safety and well-being of the Filipino people.”

The IPSP‘s objectives vary for the different armed groups. Bayanihan seeks the “defeat” of terrorist groups like the ASG, a negotiated settlement with the MILF, and the “rendering of the NPA irrelevant.”

Oplan Bayanihan is to be implemented from 2011-2016, with the first three years devoted to addressing the internal armed “threat groups”. The “substantial completion” of the objectives for the first three years will supposedly allow the AFP to “hand over the lead role in ensuring internal peace and security to appropriate government agencies and eventually allow the AFP to initiate its transition to a territorial defense-focused force. “ After the first three years, the plan says the AFP should be able to focus on external threats.

How does Oplan Bayanihan aim to achieve its goal?

Oplan Bayanihan “emphasizes that the primary focus in the conduct of military operations is Winning the Peace and not just defeating the enemy. In order to win the peace, the AFP IPSP shall be anchored on two strategic approaches: The Whole of Nation Approach and the People-Centered Security/Human Security Approach.”

“The Whole of Nation Approach is the framework that shall guide how the AFP will implement this IPSP.” This means that the AFP intends to mobilize all the so-called “stakeholders”, both government and non-government, to meet its objectives.

The “People-Centered Approach” meanwhile uses the concept of “human security” which it says intends to meet the needs of the people, including economic development, human rights and so on.

Oplan Bayanihan calls the use of the “people-centered approach” a paradigm shift or a “new” strategy for the AFP.

To achieve its goal, the AFP says it will be guided by two “strategic imperatives” and four courses of action called “strategic concepts”. The two strategic imperatives are “Adherence to Human Rights/International Humanitarian Law and the Rule of Law and Involvement of all Stakeholders”.

The four strategic concepts or courses of action are “Contribute to the Permanent and Peaceful Closure of all Armed Conflict” which stresses the “primacy of the peace process”; “Conduct of Focused Military Operations” against threat groups; Support Community-based Peace and Development Efforts” and lastly, “Security Sector Reform (SSR)”.

Grand deception and continuing violence

Oplan Bayanihan is a grand psy-war scheme that aims to continue state-sponsored violence against the people, this time with more reliance on deception and cooptation.

Bayanihan is a tacit admission of the failures of the previous Oplan Bantay Laya, especially in terms of its military objectives of defeating the armed rebellion in the country.

Bantay Laya has also been exposed as the framework by which extrajudicial killings and abductions of unarmed activists have been carried out in the name of internal security operations. The previous ISP was responsible for the bloody human rights record of the AFP under Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

The so-called paradigm shift however is not entirely new, nor is it an innovation of the AFP. Bayanihan uses concepts lifted from the US Counter-Insurgency Guide of 2009 formulated by the US Inter-agency Counter-Insurgency Initiative which includes the US Department of Defense, US State Department and the USAID.

The US COIN Guide of 2009 defines counter-insurgency as the “comprehensive civilian and military efforts taken to simultaneously defeat and contain insurgency and address its root causes”.

“Best practice COIN integrates and synchronizes political, security, economic, and informational components that reinforce governmental legitimacy and effectiveness while reducing insurgent influence over the population”.

“COIN strategies should be designed to simultaneously protect the population from insurgent violence; strengthen the legitimacy and capacity of government institutions to govern responsibly and marginalize insurgents politically, socially, and economically”.

The use of a multi-stakeholder approach supposedly to “win the peace” and promote “human security” only means the AFP will more frequently employ non-combat military operations alongside combat operations as well as non-government efforts alongside government efforts. The end goal is control over the population and environment through deception and suppression. By embarking on so-called “developmental work”, the AFP hopes to “win the sentiments” of the people and “leverage” them against the revolutionary forces.

The so-called thrusts and “strategic guidance” made by the commander-in-chief namely good governance, delivery of services, sustainable development, and security sector reform; are also inspired by the US COIN guide. These fall under the counterinsurgency model’s “functional components”:   economic function, political function, security function and information function. The end goal is the “control of the environment”.

The US COIN guide describes these elements as follows:

The political function is the key function, providing a framework of political reconciliation, and reform of governance around which all other COIN activities are organized.

The economic function seeks to provide essential services and stimulate long-term economic growth, thereby generating confidence in the government while at the same time reducing the pool of frustrated, unemployed young men and women from which insurgents can readily recruit.

The security function is an enabler for the other functions and involves development not just of the affected nation’s military force, but its whole security sector, including the related legal framework, civilian oversight mechanisms and judicial system.

The information function comprises intelligence (required to gain understanding), and influence (to promote the affected government’s cause).

(to be continued)

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