Oplan Bayanihan: ‘Winning the peace’?

Published on thepoc.net

Kris Aquino

Will the President's sister Kris Aquino be an ambassador of civil-military operations under Oplan Bayanihan?

At the start of the year, the Aquino administration enforced a new counterinsurgency plan codenamed “Oplan Bayanihan,” which will allegedly focus on “winning the peace, rather than simply defeating the enemy.”

The catchphrase may sound promising, but will the new security plan do away with the horrors of previous battle strategies?

Armed Forces of the Philippines spokesperson Brig. Gen. Jose Mabanta Jr. said in an Inquirer.net report that the new plan shifts the focus to quash the 41-year-old communist insurgency and Muslim secessionist rebellion away from traditional combat operations to “developmental activities.”

“Winning the peace, meaning to say getting people on our side, getting those who advocate armed struggle realize the futility of their efforts in as much as what they are fighting for are all being addressed,” Mabanta said in a separate report.

Oplan Bayanihan, which was launched during AFP’s celebration of its 75th anniversary last Dec. 21, replaced the four-year Oplan Bantay Laya II of the Arroyo administration. It will take effect from January 1, 2011 up to the end of President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III’s term in 2016, coming into force amid a looming peace talks between the government and communist rebels.

In July, the Aquino administration extended OBL II even as the counterinsurgency policy is linked to extra-judicial killings and abduction of hundreds of government critics suspected as members or supporters of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP). Since OBL II’s extension in July, more than 16 activists have been killed, including 78-year-old peasant leader Pascual Guevarra in Nueva Ecija.

‘Number of friends won’

But this time, the military stressed that Oplan Bayanihan will involve a “paradigm shift.”

Armed Forces chief Lt. Gen. Ricardo David said in a report that the soldiers who will enforce Bayanihan will be guided by the “respect for human rights and international humanitarian law… and the rule of law.”

In its yearend release, the AFP said that under the new battle plan, “there will be equal emphasis on the combat and non-combat dimension of the campaign such that efforts are not only focused on combat operations but will likewise give importance on the peaceful settlement of conflicts.”

“Parameters of success shall also put importance on the number of friends won as contrasted to enemies killed,” the release added, though it did not elaborate.

In an earlier report, General Mabanta explained that the counterinsurgency plan hinges on “two very important approaches”: 1) “whole of nation” approach 2) “people-centered” approach.

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