On August 3, 2020, Lt. Gen. Gilbert Gapay assumed leadership of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) as Chief-of-Staff (CSAFP), replacing Gen. Felimon Santos who had reached the retirement of age 56.
Gapay conceptualized Oplan Bayanihan, the government’s counterinsurgency plan under President Benigno Aquino III, replacing the dreaded Oplan Bantay Laya I & II of Gloria Macapagal Macapagal-Arroyo that resulted to rampant human rights violations and many activists were victims of extrajudicial killings for not differentiating revolutionaries from activists. Oplan Bayanihan used illegal arrest and detention with the eventual filing of trumped-up charges against activists and peace consultants.
President Rodrigo Duterte renamed Oplan Bayanihan and adopted Oplan Kapayapaan in the guise of wanting to bring peace to the country and engaging in peace talks—but that would mean going forward with the next agenda of socio-economic reforms including agricultural development, free land distribution and national industrialization—which the government still has not embarked on.
The Duterte regime later on renamed their counterinsurgency plan Oplan Kalasag which emphasize ending armed conflict with the banner the campaign name “end local communist armed conflict” (ELCAC) in the guise of going after the “lawless elements.” In this military campaign against, the revolutionaries were tagged the New People’s Army (NPA) as “communist-terrorist.”
The main proponent of the present government counter-insurgency is now the new chief of staff of the AFP and upon his assumption of office on August 3, he proposed to “regulate the social media” to be included in the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020.
Gapay after graduating from the Philippine Military Academy in 1988 has “seen” all activists as reds. The whole years of his military service, he devoted all of his times in confronting the CPP-NPA, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) including its factions and became one of the operators of Martial Law in Mindanao that saw a surge in human rights violations.
He led the bombing of the MILF stronghold Camp Abubakar in 2000 which trampled on the “culture” of the Moro with President Erap Estrada eating with the soldiers through boodle fight with roasted pigs (lechon) in celebrating the capture of the MILF main camp.
As designated Commander of the Mechanized Infantry Division, Gapay led the bombings of the hinterland areas in Mindanao and other parts of Visayas and Luzon believed to be the lair of the CPP-NPA, with the lives and livelihoods of peasants, Indigenous Peoples, and Moro people communities nearby treated as mere collateral damage.
Gapay was the Commander of the Southern Luzon Command (SOLCOM) that operationalized Executive Order No. 70 which implemented the Regional Task Forces to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (RTF ELCAC) in the three regions in Southern Luzon, the first to be created in the country, and caused the rampant human rights violations, especially mass arrests without warrants and afterwards trumped up cases against the people in Mindoro and the rest of the Southern Tagalog region and Bicol region.
He assumed command of the Philippine Army (PA) on December 6, 2019. The PA is leading the combat operations against the revolutionaries in different areas of the country without respecting the rights of the people especially those living in the barangays even barangay officials are tagged as “communists”, “recruiters for NPA” and “NPA supporters”.
Now, as new AFP chief, he wanted “to regulate social media through the anti-terrorism law.” As the Chief of AFP, he will be part in crafting the IRR of the Anti-Terrorism Act and main implementor of the Duterte’s counter-insurgency plan and official of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) that has proliferated fake news and/or red-tagging against Rappler, ABS-CBN, other journalists and many activist organizations.
Gapay is very much concerned on the “recruitment” of the youth “to become NPAs.” He is thinking of denying the CPP-NPA with recruits from the youth and that with regulating social media, the “radicalization of the youth” should be “curbed”. The youth have been using the social media in protesting government anti-people policies and in “inutile” handling of the pandemic.
Gapay would like to regulate the social media—a fascistic whim that violates the fundamental rights of the people to expression, demanding redress for grievance and information. Gapay is imagining the social media is the “platform being used by terrorists to radicalize, recruit and even plan terroristic acts.” Real “terrorists” would be too dumb to expose their plans using social media, which are being monitored by the Intelligence Services of the AFP, Philippine National Police, National Bureau of Investigation and anti-cybercrimes officer and agents. The real ploy is to sow intrigue against the youth, while ultimately curbing the people’s right to expression.
Asked for Malacañang’s take on Gapay’s statement, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said that Gapay’s statement is his own and that in his reading of the ‘terror law’, there is no provision there that can be used against social media.
Surely, the new CSAFP will be active in asserting that the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 is a viable law to end “local communist armed conflict”. He will be more aggressive to issue directives and guidelines for the AFP regional commands to intensify combat operations against the CPP-NPA and intensify interline activities in the urban centers and in social media “to counter” the people’s protests and dissents amid pandemic.
The people, however, cannot be cowed with Gapay’s threat to regulate social media. The people have proven their strength in protesting the Anti-Terror Law. The PNP has not stopped the people to stage protests nationwide during the SONA of the President. The more united people’s action will surge against the proposal of Gapay.