MANILA, Philippines—Incoming military chief of staff Lt. Gen. Emmanuel Bautista on Wednesday said he wants to render communist insurgents and their armed struggle “irrelevant” during his term as the head of the 125,000-strong Armed Forces of the Philippines.
“That is our goal, for the NPA (New People’s Army) to be irrelevant, for the armed struggle to be irrelevant,” Bautista said when asked if communist insurgents would be weaker or inconsequential at the end of his term.
Bautista spearheaded the crafting of the Internal Peace and Security Plan (IPSP) Bayanihan, the government’s national security strategy.
IPSP Bayanihan is a multi-sectoral approach in ending the decades-long insurgency problem in the country anchored on “winning the peace.”
President Aquino named Bautista as the successor of outgoing AFP chief of staff Gen. Jessie Dellosa who will reach the mandatory retirement age of 56 on Jan. 20.
The change of command ceremony will be held at Camp Aguinaldo on Thursday to be presided by President Aquino as the commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces.
Bautista, a member of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) “Dimalupig” Class of 1981, will serve as AFP chief of staff until he turns 56 years old on July 20, 2014.
Under his watch, Bautista said, the military would “hasten the tempo” of the implementation of IPSP Bayanihan.
“I am now in a position to influence the implementation of Bayanihan as chief of staff because I now become its operational commander. Unlike when I was the CGPA (commanding general of the Philippine Army), I had a limited role as the force provider. But now I will have a direct hand in the implementation of Bayanihan,” Bautista said.
But as of Wednesday, Bautista was already under fire from militant groups who claim that his IPSP Bayanihan was no different from the counter-insurgency campaign of the administration of then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo called Oplan Bantay Laya.
Bautista’s appointment as AFP chief of staff “signals the escalation of human rights violations under the Aquino government,” said Cristina Palabay, secretary general of Karapatan.
In a statement, Palabay said that there were 137 incidents of extrajudicial killings and 154 cases of frustrated extrajudicial killings as of late last year even “under the ‘people-centered’ and ‘respect for human rights’ catchphrases” of the IPSP Bayanihan.
“Contrary to claims of the Aquino government and the AFP, Oplan Bayanihan is no different from Gloria Arroyo’s Oplan Bantay Laya,” Palabay said.
Lawyer Edre Olalia, secretary general of the National Union of Peoples Lawyers (NUPL) called the IPSP Bayanihan a “notorious counter-insurgency program.”
“The appointment of General Bautista, who is reputedly the brains behind a notorious counter-insurgency program, fits in perfectly like a velvet glove in an iron fist. It jibes with the overall anti-people design that has resulted in continuing and disturbing human rights violations,” Olalia said in a separate statement.
Olalia also branded Bautista as one of the “hawks” in the Aquino administration and said that his appointment as military chief was not unexpected “despite unresolved accountability for extrajudicial killings, disappearances, torture and now even more vicious and orchestrated filing of fabricated and false charges against activists and dissenters.”
But Bautista said that he would ensure the Armed Forces’ adherence to the Security Sector Reform program of the government, the nexus of good governance, security, and development.
Military analyst Prof. Rommel Banlaoi had written that “the security sector transformation aims to implement effective governance of the security sector through democratic processes.”
Under the Security Sector Reform, adherence to justice and human rights are primary considerations for the Armed Forces as they carry out its task of protecting the people from internal and external threats.