August 24, 2006 · Posted in: General

War and peace (Pinoy version)

TO those, including myself, who are old enough to remember the Marcos era, the current rash of political killings and the use of strong-arm tactics against the communist insurgency are all too familiar. We’ve seen it all before. Indeed, it often seems like the rerun of a bad movie. And we already know the ending: the mailed-fist approach will only fan the flames of conflict. In the end, no one wins and everybody loses.

From the point of view of academics, however, the recent backsliding to hardline methods to contain the Left is only the latest swing of the pendulum. From the time of Marcos, they say, Philippine governments have moved from the velvet glove to the iron fist, from fighting wars to talking peace, in dealing with various insurgencies.

Such policy incoherence, says University of the Philippines political science professor and Institute for Strategic and Development Studies president Carolina Hernandez, explains the failure of the AFP’s operational plans against both communist and Muslim insurgents. The constant pendulum swings have resulted in uncoordinated policy responses and the waste of resources, she explains in a monograph published in March by the Philippine Institute of Development Studies (PIDS).

Borrowing from the framework developed by Paul Oquist of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), who studied the AFP’s responses to Mindanao secessionists, Hernandez cites the three policy positions which various governments have taken in the last 35 years:

  • The pacification position: opts for a truce but does not address the root causes of armed conflicts because none of the parties in the conflicts have the political will to address the causes and work toward long-term peace;
  • The victory position: launches large-scale military operations and employ repressive tactics that violate human rights, but only result in stoking the fires of insurgency and protracted fighting;
  • The institutional position: advocates the adoption of policies for sustainable, long-term peace and the retooling of institutions to implement these policies.

Marcos, says Hernandez, took both the victory and institutional approach against the Muslim insurgency in the early 1970s. He unleashed the military’s might against the Moros while deploying civilian agencies to reestablish civilian authority in the conflict areas. Later, he took a pacification position, by negotiating a truce with the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).

Marcos used the same left-hand and right-hand approaches against the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the New People’s Army (NPA), with the full force of the AFP let loose in NPA areas even as civic action and other such projects were also implemented. Fernandez says this combination worked for a time but “the insurgency was not resolved and eventually resurged and spread.”

President Corazon Aquino initially took a pacification poistion, intitiating peace talks with the various insurgent groups. But because the military and defense establishment opposed such a position, her government eventually took a tougher stance.

When he assumed the presidency, Fidel Ramos pursued a policy of national reconciliation and succeeded in signing a peace agreement with the MNLF. This was undone, however, by his successor Joseph Estrada, whose mailed-fist policy in Mindanao caused the bombing of towns and the displacement of hundreds of thousands.

Arroyo, for her part, pursued the settlement with the Muslim separatists and recently declared all-out war against the CPP-NPA. At the same time, she pursued an institutional policy approach premised on the attainment of victory against the insurgents.

“This jumbled mixture of pacification, victory and institutional positions,” says Fernandez, is seen in uncoordinated government action on several fronts. “Both the military and civilian actors have their own framework, language and statistics,” she writes. “The military continued to view insurgents as ‘enemies’ or ‘pests’ while the civilian agencies were lax in taking over from the military of their supposed tasks.”

Moreover, she says, “there is a need to develop a culture of peace among the stakeholders, starting with the military whose mindset has traditionally been set by its mission.”

Among other things, Fernandez recommends that the government make a clear choice of which option it wants to take. “Since pacificcation and victory positions have clearly failed judging from the continuing armed conflict, the preferred option would be the institutional policy approach because it addresses the root causes of conflict, is holistic and inclusive of stakeholders and puts high value on institutions and processes.”

An authority on the AFP, having written a groundbreaking study on the politicization of the military during martial law, Fernandez also says that the armed forces should be “more effectively subordinated to civilian authority so that its members do not undermine the policy option chosen by the government.” At the same time, she says, the government should take measures to make it harder to gain from armed conflict.

Download a copy of the Hernandez article here.

1 Response to War and peace (Pinoy version)


Global News Blog » Terrorism and Insurgency - Reds blamed for 36% of militants killings

August 28th, 2006 at 12:57 pm

[…] War and peace (Pinoy version)Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism, Philippines – Aug 24, 2006… Arroyo, for her part, pursued the settlement with the Muslim separatists and recently declared all-out war against the CPP-NPA. … […]

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