Posts Tagged ‘oplan bayanihan’

by Renato M. Reyes, Jr.

January 18, 2011



Flawed premises

Oplan Bayanihan is based on flawed premises and a denial of the historical roots and basis of the armed conflict in the country.  Oplan Bayanihan offers no clear and precise analysis of why people take up arms against the government in the first place. Failing to understand the root causes of the armed conflict will inevitably lead to a failed response.

In the section on “Strategic Environment” which deals with the socio-economic and socio-political context of the armed conflict, Bayanihan describes the “economic environment” of the country. It admits that there is “inequitable distribution of wealth and unequal economic opportunities” that “result in a wide income gap between social classes”.

However, Bayanihan also says that “there is no direct causal link between low economic status and armed conflict”.  What exists are “perceptions of relative deprivation” which are “correlated with the emergence and persistence of conflict in the Philippines”.

For the AFP, it is the “perception of relative deprivation” and not concrete socio-economic and political issues like landlessness, unemployment and injustice that drive people to take up arms against the government. For the AFP, solving the “root causes” of armed conflict boils down to changing people’s perceptions without having to change their socio-economic conditions.

For example, building a road in a barrio can create the perception of development even if farmers remain landless and at the mercy of their landlords.

Even injustice is perceived by the AFP as a mere “exploitable” issue by the revolutionary forces. To again quote Oplan Bayanihan, “the slow dispensation of justice, especially in rural areas pushes people to rely on extra-legal means of retribution and restitution.. For instance, parochial concerns such as land disputes can escalate and lead to the degeneration of internal peace and security in a wider area. The inadequacies in the justice system therefore provide threat groups another exploitable issue to discredit the government and encourage armed dissent.”

Land disputes, such as those in Hacienda Luisita, cannot be considered parochial or simply an “exploitable issue” against government. The issue of landlessness has historical roots based on state policies and is the biggest hindrance to national development and poverty eradication. The AFP and the government policy-makers show an utter lack of understanding of this social phenomenon, and whatever response they may undertake will likely be superficial.

The “development work” advocated by Oplan Bayanihan is not aimed at addressing the socio-economic and socio-political root causes of rebellion nor is it aimed at changing the economic conditions of the people. The aim is to change the people’s “perceptions” of government towards “winning their sentiments” while marginalizing the “insurgents”.  There is a common term for this. It’s called psy-war.
“Whole-of-nation approach”

Oplan Bayanihan professes a paradigm shift through its “whole of nation” and “people-centered” approach. These concepts are not entirely new and are lifted from the US Counter-Insurgency Guide of 2009.

The US Interagency COIN Initiative uses the “whole of government, whole of society” concept in carrying out counter-insurgency operations. It also distinguishes between an “enemy-centric approach” and a “people-centered approach”

The “whole of nation approach” aims to engage the different stakeholders who will share the concept, responsibility and burden of achieving peace and security. Bayanihan describes the stakeholders as the government, the non-government organizations and “civil society” groups and “the entire Filipino citizenry”. It aims to harmonize (shared concept) and mobilize (shared responsibility) both government and non-government assets for the counter-insurgency thrusts of the AFP.

The IPSP enumerated the different government agencies whose “function and roles directly impinge on internal peace and security”.

The DILG is said to take the lead in the matter of good governance. The Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process or OPAPP helps in facilitating peace negotiations while the DFA gets foreign support for the counter-insurgency initiatives. The DSWD will assist internally displaced persons (IDPs) and other individuals affected by armed conflict. The DPWH will be involved for the construction of infrastructure while the DOH and DepEd will be involved in the delivery of other services.

Other government agencies that are considered important in achieving “peace and security” are the DAR, DA, NEDA, NCIP, NCMF, the CHR and the recently created Presidential Communications Group.

It would be interesting to see how the CHR will play a role, if any, in all of this. The CHR is supposed to be an independent commission and has no business being employed in AFP counter-insurgency operations.

Other government stakeholders are the LGU’s which are described as being “closes to the people and most critical actors in the attainment of internal peace and security”. They are said to be responsible for the “satisfaction or perception of deprivation of the local populace”. Again, here we note that it is merely the “perception of deprivation” that Bayanihan is concerned with, nothing more.

Lastly, there are the AFP and PNP, the main pillars in the counterinsurgency drive.

As for the non-government stakeholders, Bayanihan believes that NGO’s and CSO’s “fill the gaps in the dispensation of tasks and functions of the national government agencies and local governments”.  As such, they will be utilized in the counter-insurgency campaign for the “delivery of services” and “sustainable development” projects.

As for the third stakeholder, “the entire Filipino people”, Bayanihan considers them the ultimate beneficiaries of the internal peace and security efforts” and thus their participation is “imperative”.

“People-centered approach” and “human security”

Bayanihan claims to be “people-centered” , focusing their so-called “human security” which is broadly defined as “freedom from fear and freedom from want”. Bayanihan claims to put the people’s welfare “at the center of its operations”.

This concept is also derived from the US COIN Guide which uses the term “population-centric approach” as differentiated from the “enemy-centric approach”.  It defines enemy-centric to mean emphasis on the “defeat of the enemy as its primary task and other activities as supporting efforts.”

Meanwhile, a population-centric approach means “to shift the focus…from defeating the insurgent organization to maintaining or recovering the support of the population.”

However the US COIN guide says that in reality, counterinsurgency campaigns “are rarely purely enemy-centric or “population-centric” and will require a combination of both approaches.

Under the “whole of nation, people-centered approach”, programs such as the “conditional cash transfer” can be used as counter-insurgency tools given their palliative but ‘high-impact’ nature. Infrastructure projects, such as the US  MCC-funded road construction in Samar can also fall within the scope of counter-insurgency operations (as admitted by the local AFP themselves).

There is also the concern that Oplan Bayanihan will militarize the delivery of services and “development work” done by government agencies and non-government organizations. “Development work” in communities can also be used as a cover for intelligence gathering and profiling of residents. It would also be interesting to know the kind of NGO’s that will engage the AFP within the framework of Bayanihan.

This early, reports that the AFP’s “peace and development teams” implementing Oplan Bayanihan in Davao del Norte and Compostela Valley have been conducting ‘census’ activities in the community, extracting information from a local NGO. The local NGO Sildap cried harassment after they were repeatedly visited by fully-armed soldiers who were trying to extract information.

Combat and non-combat operations

Bayanihan claims that while it gives equal importance to non-military multi-stakeholder approach in the conduct of counter-insurgency operations, there will be “no diminution in the importance of combat operations”. However, these would be more “focused” and “tailored” to meet particular “threat groups”.

As the US COIN guide says, “COIN functions… include informational, security, political and economic components, all of which are designed to support the overall objective of establishing and consolidating control over the environment.”

The IPSP calls for the use of “focused military operations against armed threat groups”. The military operations take on the form of combat operations complemented by a wide array of non-combat initiatives aimed at establishing control over the environment.

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.

Peace negotiations

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.

Human Rights

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.

Further studies

U.S. Army General Samuel Sumner meets with the Sultans of Bayang and Oato, Philippines, 1902 (US COIN Guide 2009)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. ###



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)