The counterinsurgency program is carried out by the government of the Philippines with the direction of the US government.
US-patterned counterinsurgency program
A counterinsurgency program is defined by the US Department of State as “comprehensive civilian and military efforts taken to simultaneously defeat and contain insurgency and address its root causes.”
“Insurgency is the organized use of subversion and violence to seize, nullify or challenge political control of a region. As such, it is primarily a political struggle, in which both sides use armed force to create space for their political, economic and influence activities to be effective.” (US COIN Guide, 2009)
The US Department of State reveals: “An insurgency is a rebellion against a constituted authority when those taking part in the rebellion are not recognized as belligerents. It is the organized use of subversion and violence to seize, nullify or challenge political control of a region. As such, it is primarily a political struggle, in which both sides use armed force to create space for their political, economic and influence activities to be effective.”
For the US Department of State, there is a need of a comprehensive counterinsurgency program of a duly constituted government to stop the insurgency.
The US Department of State explains, “Counterinsurgency campaigns of duly-elected or politically recognized governments take place during war, occupation by a foreign military or police force, and when internal conflicts that involve subversion and armed rebellion occur. The most effective counterinsurgency campaigns ‘integrate and synchronize political, security, economic, and informational components that reinforce governmental legitimacy and effectiveness while reducing insurgent influence over the population. COIN strategies should be designed to simultaneously protect the population from insurgent violence; strengthen the legitimacy and capacity of government institutions to govern responsibly and marginalize insurgents politically, socially, and economically.’”
In 2009, the US government released a “COIN Guide” which should be understood fully by the activists who are target of attacks.
The US COIN Guide of 2009 recognized that: “To be successful, insurgencies require charismatic leadership, supporters, recruits, supplies, safe havens and funding (often from illicit activities). They only need the active support of a few enabling individuals, but the passive acquiescence of a large proportion of the contested population will give a higher probability of success.”
At the start, the Guide explains: “Counterinsurgency (COIN) is the blend of comprehensive civilian and military efforts designed to simultaneously contain insurgency and address its root causes.”
The Guide premised that: “This is best achieved when the political cause of the insurgency has strong appeal, manipulating religious, tribal or local identity to exploit common societal grievances or needs. Insurgents seek to gain control of populations through a combination of persuasion, subversion and coercion while using guerrilla tactics to offset the strengths of government security forces. Their intent is usually to protract the struggle, exhaust the government and win sufficient popular support to force capitulation or political accommodation.”
The terms “manipulating” and “exploit” will make the people who are implementing the COIN to miss the point. The seriousness of the problem of insurgency should be given utmost importance. The problem of “slavery” and “neo-colonization” is the main aspect of the armed uprising in the Philippines.
The COIN will intensify with the Duterte regime
The US COIN Guide is the pattern for the military suppression of the Filipino people.
It is still the same with the previous US COIN that has a strategy of “clear-hold-consolidate-develop,” but its modifications and developments are being applied by its implementors.
The three years of the Duterte regime the COIN was called Oplan Kapayapaan. Now, it is called Oplan Kapanatagan.
General Noel Clement, Chief of Staff of the AFP, said the COIN promotes localized peace talks.
He said, “even with the termination of the peace negotiations between the government and the CPP-NPA-NDF, the Central Command, along with other government agencies will strongly pursue the localized peace talks.”
“This is to show that the government is sincere towards the attainment of a just and lasting peace,” Clement added.
Clement said the localized peace talks will serve as an avenue for the NPA members to negotiate directly and receive assistance from the government.
He said that “through direct negotiations with the local NPA members, the government will be able to directly address the problems, thereby justly and objectively terminating the irrelevant NDF-schemed peace process, and finally putting an end to the longstanding armed conflict in the country.”
“We have the strong support of the local government units and agencies. We expect that the general public will support this endeavor as peace-loving citizens of the country,” Clement said.
The Duterte regime will implement a program of “surrender,” that we know now in recent cases of human rights worker Alexandrea Pacalda and many peasants and workers in areas in Mindanao, could also be fake and forced. He has been offering support to the so-called surrenderees from Enhance Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-CLIP).
The E-CLIP will provide them P50,000 in livelihood assistance and P15,000 immediate assistance. They can also get access to a housing component with a total assistance of as much as P450,000.
“The [E-CLIP] does not only provide firearm remuneration but an overall financial, livelihood and employment opportunities for the benefit of the former rebel and his/her family. We will facilitate your return to the mainstream society and help you live normal and productive lives,” Clement added.
The same strategy and tactic are employed. The difference is the intensity of the current COIN program.
Duterte’s COIN will surely fail
The US-directed COIN of the Duterte regime will certainly fail.
The following indicators are:
- A gigantic task
The requirements enumerated above require a capable government. A government that has not only gotten the support of the military and police, but all sectors of the Philippine society. Though Duterte embarked on his presidency with overwhelming votes over electoral rivals and popularity of his strongman stance, but at the course of implementing its policies and programs, many of his supporters withdrew their support. Even, military junior officers are disappointed with the Duterte’s handling of relations with China. The task of internalizing the COIN is big, much more in actualizing the COIN programs. The participation of the government agencies and government civilian organizations is always motivated by rewards of money and positions is another problem of the Duterte regime.
COIN requires “credibility and effectiveness.” Government should eradicate corruption, in the government. It implies that development resources should be channeled through its ministries must be free of “commissions”, “cuts” and “re-alignments’. The Duterte government has an “endemic corruption and may therefore be deemed unfit to handle … financial assistance” from foreign countries and from its own coffers. Corruption in the Philippines is a chronic cancer that will not be easily cured. Fake surrenderees’ assistance and bounties of captured revolutionary leaders are cashed in by local officials. This system becomes a mere racket.
- Human rights violations
The COIN doctrine contain the greatest paradox of upholding human rights, but military solutions are only bound to violate them and accumulate violations. This has been including only because human rights in essential in drawing the support of the people. The Duterte regime is “well-known” in committing massive human rights violations because of its “war on drugs,” “war on terror” and “all-out war” against the people. Duterte disregarded peace talks as a means to draw the military to support his program. He attacks the churches and their religious beliefs. He is also isolated from the support of the international communities who put a primary concern on human rights.
- Incapability of the local government units
When the military forces have “cleared” the communities being “controlled by the insurgents,” the problem of transition occurs. The local government units need resources and training to become capable of handling the “liberated” areas. The slow implementation of a transition “risks the loss of domestic political support for the campaign, as tangible signs of progress may be hard to perceive.” It always creates a culture of dependency in which the national government has no longer time to intervene.
The whole-of-nation approach has all the elements of “diplomatic and legal offensives, citizen’s diplomacy, effective military strategy and the effective use of government institutions.” But the overall climate of political situation and good governance is missing from national down to the local levels.
- The people’s stand for democracy
Though, the much publicized “good effect” of the martial law in Mindanao, the civilian populace in the whole island of Mindanao call for the lifting of martial law. Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio herself wants Davao to be exempted in implementing martial law.
The martial law in Negros, Samar and Bicol through Memorandum Order 32 (called in other terms, such as ‘state of lawless violence’) is presently criticized by the people not only by the residents in the said regions, but also by the whole nation.
The de facto martial law nationwide is being exposed and opposed by the people. They call for democracy against tyranny and dictatorship. They want democracy. They shouted on the streets on the 47th year commemoration of Marcos’ martial law declaration, “never again to martial law.”
- The struggle for national liberation and democracy persists
The national liberation movement persists. As long as the country is not sovereign and free, the revolutionary organizations will not stop in asserting the right of the people to enjoy a genuine independence and democracy.
From the US colonial period until now, the revolutionaries have persisted in their struggle because the national liberation of the Philippines and democratic rights of the people are far from realities, especially to the farmers, workers and other marginalized sectors of society.
The struggle of the people will be carried out even thousands of lives would be offered because fighting for liberation is an honorable and dignified endeavor.
Thus, Duterte’s COIN in the Philippines is a “paper tiger.” The US COIN Guide of 2019 is only good to imagine but the actualization is very difficult as the military solution will always fail and will only foment struggle. The US will never enter an agreement with the Filipino people to work with “mutual respect” and “no interference” on internal affairs. And as foreign dominance on the country’s economy persists and translates to the people’s thralldom, the people will resist.