The revolutionary Left, the CPP-NPA-NDFP, is waging a war of national liberation against imperialism and a democratic revolution against bureaucrat capitalism and feudalism. It aims to dismantle the semi-colonial, semi-feudal character of Philippine society and work for national industrialization and genuine agrarian reform towards socialism. It is also intensifying its tactical offensives against the AFP and PNP to hasten the downfall of the Arroyo regime.
The CPP-NPA-NDFP is in the company of FARC in the terror-listing of the U.S. Former U.S. State Sec. Collin Powell’s statement in Nepal is instructive of the U.S.’ design in its “global war on terror.” He told King Gyanendra and Prime Minister Deuba of Nepal, “You have a Maoist insurgency that’s trying to overthrow the government and this really is the kind of thing that we are fighting against throughout the world.”
The joint operations of U.S. troops and the AFP against the Abu Sayyaf is merely a training exercise for the latter does not constitute a real threat to the U.S.- Arroyo regime. The real target of the U.S. in training, advising, and building the capabilities of the AFP is the legal Left and the CPP-NPA-NDFP.
Oplan Bantay Laya
Oplan Bantay Laya, which was launched in 2002, is the latest in a series of counterinsurgency programs of the AFP.
The first “comprehensive and coordinated” counterinsurgency program implemented by the AFP, during the Marcos dictatorship, was Oplan Katatagan (Operation Stability) in 1982.
This was followed by Oplan Lambat Bitag I , II, III, IV of the Aquino and Ramos administrations. The Estrada Regime launched Oplan Makabayan in 1998 and Oplan Balangai in 2000.
Essentially, Oplan Bantay Laya is the same as previous counterinsurgency programs. It divided military operations into four stages, clear-hold-consolidate-develop. Military operations are conducted to “clear” the area of insurgents, paramilitary groups and an intelligence network are formed to “hold” the area; the AFP then “consolidates” the area by improving its relations with the civilian population through civic action operations such as medical and dental missions; and at the last stage the AFP “develops” the area by introducing livelihood and development projects.
In terms of military tactics, Oplan Bantay Laya employs the same combination of intensive military operations, intelligence, and civic action or triad operations.
AFP documents reveal that Oplan Bantay Laya has three strategies namely, Strategic Holistic Approach, Win-Hold-Win, and Sustained Operations.
The Strategic Holistic Approach is the AFP’s solution to what it perceived as the lack of coordination between and among government agencies, the AFP and Philippine National Police (PNP), and civil society institutions such as NGOs. On paper, the objective of this strategy is to comprehensively approach the insurgency problem. The president heads the machinery for the Strategic Holistic Approach while the AFP and PNP are in-charge of military operations and Area Coordinating Centers. These centers coordinate AFP and PNP units, local government agencies, and other sectors such as NGOs in an area for the purpose of conducting counterinsurgency operations.
As part of the Strategic Holistic Approach, the counterinsurgency program is directed by the Cabinet Oversight Committee on Internal Security, currently the most powerful cabinet cluster on the national level. At the local level, local officials are virtually stripped of decision-making authority and are even threatened by AFP commanders if they question the latter’s actions. Under Oplan Bantay Laya, civilian authority is practically subjugated by the chain of command of the AFP. Even NGOs and other civil society groups are forced to surrender their independence and to cooperate with the AFP or risk being branded as “terrorist or front organizations” and be dealt with accordingly
Consistent with the strategies of Win-Hold-Win and Sustained Operations, the AFP identified thirteen priority areas in seven regions namely, Ilocos-Cordillera, Central Luzon, Southern Tagalog, Bicol, Bohol in Central Visayas, Caraga, Compostela Valley in Southern Mindanao. These areas were subjected to heavy troop deployments and sustained military operations. Only when the AFP has achieved its military objective of wiping out the insurgency and has formed a civilian self-defense force in an area does it transfer majority of its troops to another area which it then subjects to intense and sustained military operations.
An example is Mindoro. The island was subjected to intense and sustained military operations that resulted in numerous cases of political killings and other human rights violations. When the AFP thought that the island was saturated enough and that all political and people’s organizations had been destroyed, they transferred the troops and the operations to Batangas. In Central Luzon, Tarlac and Pampanga was subjected to heavy troop deployments and military operations before the AFP units were transferred to Bulacan and Nueva Ecija.
A major change in Oplan Bantay Laya, compared to previous counterinsurgency programs, is its application of target research and the fusion of intelligence and combat operations. With target research, intelligence operations are directed at what it calls “sectoral front organizations”. The key people in these “sectoral front organizations” are placed in a “sectoral Order of Battle (OB).” These intelligence operations are carried out by units and personnel of the Military Intelligence Group-Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (MIG-ISAFP) lodged at the battalion level. These units are given “Intelligence Task Allocations,” with quarterly targets for “neutralization.” This resulted in a surge of killings of political activists from 2002 onwards. Following is a table tracking the number of political killings per year.