AFP: What order of battle?By Cathy Yamsuan, Marlon Ramos
Philippine Daily Inquirer
What hit list?
The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Sunday flatly denied allegations that it was maintaining an order of battle (OB) or a hit list of personalities considered as enemies of the state.
“In the Armed Forces, we do not practice keeping a hit list or even an order of battle,” AFP spokesperson Col. Arnulfo Burgos Jr. said in an interview over radio DzBB.
“What we have is a list of persons wanted by law, those who have warrants for their arrest. That list is given to us by the PNP (Philippine National Police),” he said.
The military is only assisting local police in law enforcement operations, he said, adding that arrested fugitives are usually turned over to the nearest police unit.
“Although there is an ongoing ceasefire (with communist rebels), the AFP is still doing checkpoint operations because that does not prohibit us from fulfilling our mandate to the people,” Burgos said.
Malacañang has reminded the military that maintaining an order of battle is now outlawed with the enactment of the Anti-Enforced Disappearance Act, which President Aquino signed into law a few hours after he spoke at the 77th anniversary of the AFP last Friday.
Respect for human rights and humanitarian law, Burgos said, is at the heart of the AFP’s new antiinsurgency project called IPSP (Internal Peace and Security Plan) Bayanihan.
“In all aspect of our military and security operations, first and foremost is upholding the law and promoting international humanitarian laws. We also promote respect for human rights in all levels of commands,” he said.
Human rights offices
According to Burgos, the AFP had established a human rights office not only in its general headquarters in Camp Aguinaldo, but also in all its unified command headquarters nationwide.
“If there are violations of our soldiers, the public may help us by reporting it to us. We will cooperate with the authorities and make sure the unit concerned will make the personnel available for investigation,” he said.
In the radio interview, Sen. Panfilo Lacson said that as a former PNP chief, he had encountered an order of battle of state enemies.
He said he once ran into such list which contained the name of a government official that intelligence reports linked to crimes like drugs and kidnapping.
“You would be surprised and wonder why the names of some personalities are there,” he said in Filipino in an interview over dzBB Sunday.
Pressed to explain, Lacson said he volunteered the observation “as a general description.”
“Sometimes, I would read an OB and tell myself, ‘Why, I had no clue this guy would be doing this or that!’ Because there are instances no one would have an inkling that a government official listed there would be involved in drugs and kidnapping.”
Lacson said that after recovering from his initial shock, he would go through the “accompanying summaries and information” and would realize that the person’s inclusion in the OB “made sense.”
He said an OB’s contents were not supposed to be released to media. “It is like telegraphing the punches of the military and the Philippine National Police,” he said.
The senator said that putting together an order of battle involved the intelligence networks of the military, the PNP and the National Bureau of Investigation.
He said there had been cases where names were included based on errors in intelligence reporting. “The intelligence community can commit mistakes,” he said.
Lacson said the main purpose of an OB was to “guide” the military and the police in identifying the personalities who deserved to be “covered by more intelligence efforts.”
“The OB gives a focus since there would be dossiers that provide material pertaining to the activities and venues of the modus operandi of certain people,” he noted.
Trouble starts when the OB is abused or when protocol is not followed, he said, particularly by “overeager law enforcement units or personalities.”