W hat do the following have in common?
- the recent spate of killings in Negros, Bukidnon, Bicol and elsewhere;
- the bombing of Lumad communities and closure of Lumad schools;
- the red-tagging, terrorist-branding and other attacks on activists;
- the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP)-invented ridiculous “Oust Duterte” conspiracies and conjured matrices;
- the trumped-up criminal and sedition charges, illegal arrests and detention of a broad range of critics of the administration;
- government’s termination of the peace talks with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and announcements and fake news of New People’s Army (NPA) members “surrendering in droves”;
- All of the above are part of the “whole-of-nation approach” (or WONA) being bannered by the AFP as the “new paradigm” that would “end the local armed conflict” or the “communist insurgency”.
1. WONA is NOT a new paradigm or concept. It is an old, worn-out concept and approach derived from US counter-insurgency (COIN) doctrine. WONA is synonymously or interchangeably used with “comprehensive approach” in US COIN manuals to address persistent problems and difficulties in coordinating US military and civilian forest involved in “peace and stabilization” operations in countries they had invaded, occupied or intervened militarily such as Iraq, Afghanistan and Sudan. The difficulties are aggravated by the complexities of US forces dealing at the same time with the host or local government’s military, civilian agencies and the population at large. Studies show the WONA has not adequately solved these problems and difficulties.
2. The concept and program of involving civilian government agencies and the private sector goes as far back as 1992, in then Pres. Fidel Ramos’ Oplan Mamamayan. Ramos realized from the failed COIN campaigns of the Marcos dictatorship (Oplan Katatagan) and Corazon Aquino (Oplan Lambat-Bitag) that the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and NPA cannot be defeated nor destroyed through military operations alone.
3. The Arroyo regime adopted the same US-directed “holistic approach to addressing the insurgency problem” in its 2001 National Internal Security Program (NISP 2001), better known by its AFP campaign Oplan Bantay Laya. The BIG difference — what was really NEW in Bantay Laya was the policy and practice of unleashing military operations to “neutralize” unarmed activists and leaders of progressive organizations in urban areas nationwide. These were tagged as “communist fronts”, “enemies of the state” and as “CPP-NPA legal political infrastructure” that had to be destroyed in order to defeat the NPA. This brought about the horrific and unprecedented rise in extra-judicial killings from 2001 to 2006.
4. In 2006, then AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Hermogenes Esperon declared Oplan Bantay Laya an unqualified success, claiming it cut NPA strength by 5,000, from 12,000 to 7,000. Arroyo unabashedly displayed her approval of and elation over the bloody, murderous campaign by specially citing and congratulating the notorious Gen. Jovito Palparan in her 2006 State of the Nation Address (SONA) for “doing good work”.
5. Arroyo’s NISP 2007 (or Oplan Bantay Laya 2) is described in AFP documents as “enhanced NISP 2001”. It refurbishes the political, information, economic and security aspects of the “holistic approach” into “5 offensives” (political, legal, strategic communications, economic and military), as well as “3 programs” (DDR, or disarmament-demobilization-reintegration, as well as amnesty, and human rights).
Extra-judicial killings off unarmed activists and leaders continued, but scaled down as a result of universal outrage and condemnation here and abroad, capped by the investigations and findings of UN Special Rapporteur for extrajudicial, summary and arbitrary executions, Philip Alston (Feb 2007), Amnesty International (Aug 2006) and the Arroyo-created Melo Commission. All attributed most of the killings and the impunity with which these were perpetrated by elements of state security forces. Alston and Amnesty International went further to conclude the perpetrators acted in line with the state’s counter-insurgency program NISP 2001 and Oplan Bantay Laya.
To sustain the attacks on the so-called “legal political infrastructure”, Arroyo created the Inter-agency Legal Action Group (Ialag) to plan, direct and implement the “legal offensive”, i.e., filing trumped-up criminal charges, arrest and detention of targeted leaders and members of the legal democratic movement.
6. The phrase “whole-of-nation” was used in Oplan Bayanihan, the AFP’s implementing campaign for Aquino III’s 2011 National Internal Peace and Security Plan (NISP 2011-2016). Closely hewing to the 2009 US COIN Guide, it describes the collaborative roles of the civilian and military components. On paper, it asserts the primacy of the non-military component, with the military playing only an enabling role.
In practice, however, the military was the main and leading force, set the direction and held the initiative over the civilian component throughout. Extrajudicial killings and other grave human rights violations, including the “legal offensive” continued unabated.
7. The current “new paradigm” so-called was first announced by the AFP in September 2018, along with a proposal for a “national task force to end the communist insurgency by mid-2019.” The revelation of a supposed “Red October” Oust-Duterte plot signaled the escalation of attacks against the legal democratic movement. Trade unions and worker’s strikes, youth organizations and schools, peasants’ and indigenous peoples’ struggles, churches and hospitals, environment and human rights defenders, peace advocates — all were accused of being recruiters and training grounds for the CPP-NPA.
If this sounds like Oplan Bantay Laya over again, it is because the proposal “to end the communist insurgency using the “whole-of-nation approach” is in line with NISP 2018-2022, which the AFP describes as an “enhanced version of NISP 2007” or “E2NISP”(since NISP 20074 is “E1NISP”).
8. In the AFP proposal, the five offensives and three programs in NISP 2007 are transformed to twelve (12)”pillars” or “clusters” of cooperation, wherein each “pillar” is assigned a cluster of civilian and military/security agencies.
9. Executive Order 70, dated 4 December 2018, seeksto institutionalize the whole-of-nation approach in attaining inclusive and sustainable peace, create a national task force to end local communist armed conflict, and direct the adoption of a national peace framework. Like the 2011 Oplan Bayanihan and the 2009 US Counterinsurgency Guide, it purports to prioritize and harmonize the non-military, i.e., economic and political aspects of the counter-insurgency drive (such as delivery of basic services and social development packages) and ensure the active participation of all sectors of society in the pursuit of the country’s peace agenda.
Not so curiously now, the EO 70 makes special mention of state universities and colleges (SUCs) in directing all government departments, bureaus, agencies or instrumentalities to “render the necessary support to the Task Force” But it not only underplays, it covers up and is totally silent about the military and “security” aspects such as the so-called legal offensive and the “neutralization” or destruction of the so-called “legal political infrastructure of the communist terrorists”.
10. EO70 institutionalizes and declares government’s total abandonment of its commitment to and obligations in implementing Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (Carhrihl) and in forging basic political, social and economic reforms that would address the roots of the armed conflict and bring about a just and lasting peace. It has also stripped off the pretense of shifting to local peace talks instead of national peace negotiations by pursuing “local peace engagements” aimed at enticing surrenders and encouraging capitulation.
More than a year has passed since the Duterte government announced its intention to shift to local peace talks instead of negotiating with the NDFP for basic reforms. Eight months have passed since the formal announcement of the “new paradigm” or the whole-of-nation approach. What we have seen and experienced so far has not brought us any closer to an “inclusive and sustainable peace”. Rather, we are thrown back to the dark and bloody years of Oplan Bantay Laya and could fall further back to the martial law years. Only the people’s active resistance will prevent that, in what would more truly be a whole-of-nation effort.