What can be accomplished in four months of service for the newly appointed Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (CSAFP), Lt. Gen. Noel Clement? The answer is, he will just set a unified nationwide AFP’s rigorous and notorious campaign against Duterte’s critics. This four-month top post appointment could also be some token reward for his “achievements” in his job.
This writer had mistaken in expecting that the Philippine Army chief Lt. Gen. Macairog Alberto will be the next CSAFP. Lt. Gen Alberto is one of the most loyal AFP generals to Duterte but there is also a most loyal and notorious in counter-insurgency who was trained by the butcher and convicted general Jovito Palparan in the person of Lt. Gen. Noel Clement.
His last appointment before assuming the CSAFP post is the commanding general of the Central Visayas Command, which started on November 22, 2018.
The dreaded Oplan Sauron in Negros Island that had claimed so many lives of poor peasants in Guihulngan, Negros Oriental in December 2018 was his project. Oplan Sauron, though it is a synchronized campaign by the AFP and Philippine National Police (PNP) against the “local communisis” in two provinces of Negros, is directed by Clement.
Clement’s expertise and experiences are important even though his time as CSAFP is short. His usefulness to Duterte is already proven in implementing Oplan Sauron.
By ignoring the human rights concerns of the people, Clement “whole-heartedly” carried out the Memorandum Order 32 and Executive Order 70 that targeted critics of Duterte, either “communists’, legal and progressive activists, human rights and peace advocates, political opposition. and even church workers who are conscious of their prophetic ministry. To the mindset of the AFP, they are “all New People’s Army (NPA) or LCTs (local communist terrorists), as it is the “voice” of Clement. Duterte needs. Clement to set the direction of the “whole-of-nation approach” to end “local communist insurgency,” albeit with notoriety.
Oplan Sauron, when it was implemented, 87 of 89 civilians became victims of extra-judicial killings, most of them were from Guihulngan, Negros Oriental. Aside from the killings, there are many civilians who were illegally arrested and charged with trumped-up cases.
Who is Lt. Gen. Noel Clement?
Lt. Gen. Noel Clement was born in Lipa City, Batangas on January 5, 1964. He grew in Davao with his father, a worker of Dole Philippines. He is a “mistah” of the outgoing CSAFP Gen. Benjamin Madrigal, Jr. and former CSAFP Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr. They are part of Sandiwa of Class 1985. Clement was a fresh junior officer at the time when the dictator Ferdinand Marcos, Sr. was ousted. He is called “a veteran military officer.” But activists called him the “shadow” of the butcher and convicted military general Palparan.
A PSG officer
Clement served as an officer of the Presidential Security Group (PSG) during the presidency of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
An Army Officer under 204th IB, 2nd ID, PA
Clement was an officer of 204 Infantry Brigade (IB), 2nd Infantry Division (ID), Philippine Army. This army command is based in Oriental Mindoro. The 204 IB was responsible of the abductions and killings of Karapatan-Southern Tagalog chapter general secretary Eden Marcellana and peasant leader Eddie Gumanoy in 2003. Jovito Palparan was the commanding officer of the said brigade at the time.
A commanding officer of 56th IB, 7 ID, PA
Clement was a notorious junior army officer trained by Palparan in counter-insurgency, especially in committing criminal acts during Macapagal-Arroyo’s counterinsurgency program Oplan Bantay Laya 1 and 2. Like his idol Palparan, he out rightly called “communists” those who criticized the government. He proved to have no fear in following orders to kill and violate the human rights of the people.
When Palparan became the commanding general of the 7th ID, PA based in Fort Magsaysay, Nueva Ecija in 2005, Clement was the commanding officer of the notorious 56th IB, PA based in Norzagaray, Bulacan.
From January to February 2016 alone, 25 individuals were victims of extrajudicial killings, disappearances, tortures, physical injuries, intimidations, massacre, illegal arrests and detentions that happened in Central Luzon region. Clement was one of the Army officers who perpetrated the said human rights violations.
Clement was one of the planners and had order the operations of abducting activist Jonas Burgos on April 28, 2007 that happened at Ever Gotesco Mall in Commonwealth Avenue, Quezon City. The CSAFP then was Gen. Hermogenes Esperon, Jr., now Duterte’s National Security Adviser. In the course of pursuing justice in court by the family and friends of Jonas Burgos, Esperon “insisted” that the people that had been blamed for the abduction “are not in the roster of the Intelligence Service of the AFP.”
Esperon cleared Clement, saying that he “was no longer connected with the 56 IB, as Clement was assigned to the “Escort and Security Battalion” based in Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City, when Jonas Burgos was abducted.
But Mrs. Edita Burgos, mother of Jonas Burgos said that “Clement, among other military officers, should be held liable for her son’s disappearance because the plate number of the vehicle allegedly used in the abduction was traced to a vehicle in the custody of the 56th IB.” Clement, however, was cleared by the court regarding Burgos’ case.
Under Palparan, Clement were responsible for the “surrender” of the so-called NPAs joined with 1,000 supporters who organized a rally against the “communists” in April 2006 in Doña Trinidad, Bulacan. Palparan declared that the 13 barangays were NPA-free areas in Bulacan. The then-Col. Noel Clement said that “before the former rebels joined the indignation rally (condemning the communists), they underwent a three-day workshop seminar.”
A Brigade commander of 602 IB, 6 ID, PA
Brig. Gen. Noel Clement served as commanding general of 602 IB, PA based in Carmen, North Cotabato.
During his time, Clement led a joint AFP-MILF operation to find suspected terrorist Abdul Basit Usman in Pikit, North Cotabato in 2015. Usman, who carried a US$1-million bounty, was reportedly killed by his comrades in the same year.
From 2015 to 2016 as brigade commander, Clement was known by Moro residents in North Cotabato as a general who ordered the aerial bombardment with cannons in the communities of the Moro people.
As AFP deputy chief of staff for operations
Clement was deputy chief of staff for operations (J3) of the Armed Forces of the Philippines from 2016-2017.
Former AFP spokesman Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla said: “He is well-qualified to work and be the J3, not only because of his extensive experience in operational matters being an Army officer, but also his previous stint at the [office of the] J3 itself.”
The AFP office for operations (J3) supervises the implementation of the counter-insurgency of the government. Clement had previously served at the office of the AFP deputy chief of staff for operations as a staff officer.
A Commanding general of 10 ID, PA
Clement was an Army’s 10 ID commander, which oversees parts of Soccsksargen (Region XII) and Davao region, the hometown of Duterte.
A few days after the declaration of Martial Law in Mindanao in May 2017, Clement was appointed commanding general of the 10 ID, PA.
Under his command, he supervised the region of Davao, part of Soccsksargen, and the provinces of Surigao del Sur, Agusan del Sur and Bukidnon. Clement and his troops were involved in human rights violations in these areas.
Within 19 months of his rigorous campaign against the “communist”, 50 civilians were allegedly killed by the troops under Clement, including two children. Thousands of residents had evacuated because of aerial bombings and military zoning operations in the communities of peasants and national minorities in Clement’s areas of responsibilities.
When Duterte appointed Clement’s “mistah” the then-Western Mindanao Command (Wesmincom) as AFP chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Carlito Galvez, Jr., Clement had expressed congratulations to Galvez and said that Galvez had big contributions to crush the communists and the problems of terrorism in the country. Clement said that “in addressing both the terrorism threat and internal security threats… our country can move forward and reached the stage of development.”
Clement was also responsible in “mass surrenders” of residents believed to be supporters of the revolutionary organizations in Southern Mindanao Region. There were so-called 8 members of the Pulang Bagani Command (PBC) 1 of the NPA who surrendered to the 16 IB were presented to Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio at the army headquarters in Barangay Dalisay, Panabo City.
Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte “promised that they will be provided with livelihood and financial assistance to help get back to their lives.” The presidential daughter also offered localized peace talks.
Clement said the eight surrenderees were “members of PBC 1, who was under the leadership of Ka Jinggoy before he was arrested.”
“They have helped us in our operation already and hopefully, they can also encourage their comrades to come down and avail of the government program,” he added.
Clement supervised the 1003 IB that reported “172 former rebels have already surrendered to the 16thIB, 3rd IB and 89th IB. Of the total number, 87 were regular members of the NPA.”
At the time, “the three battalions recovered 94 firearms and 56 improvised explosive devices. They were also able to clear 48 barangays from the rebel influence.”
The Duterte regime has been offering the support of the so called surrenderees through the Enhance Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-CLIP) or the assistance program coming from city government of Davao.
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 benefit with a total assistance of as much as P450,000.
One of the heinous crimes committed by Clement as commanding general of the 10 ID was the massacre of the seven national minorities on December 3, 2017 in Lake Sebu, South Cotabato.
There were two wounded on that military operation. Cases were filed against Clement, Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc of the 33 IB, Lt. Col. Benjamin Leander of the 27th IB.
Clement’s troops were also accused of the abduction, torture and attempt of burning the two young miners at Compostela Valley in November 2017.
These “accomplishments” of Clement brought him to the top leadership of the AFP Central (Visayas) Command.
As AFP Central Command commander
Clement assumed command of the AFP Central (Visayas) Command on Nov. 16, 2018.
AFP Central Command (CentCom) has jurisdiction over the whole Visayas. Two Army divisions are under it: the 8th ID based in Eastern Visayas and the 3rd ID of the Central at Western Visayas. The 2nd Tactical Operations Wing of the Philippine Air Force and the whole Naval forces in Visayas are under the CentCom.
Upon his appointment in November 2018, Duterte issued Executive Order 32 and ordered additional troops to Negros Island, Samar province, and Bicol region supposedly to quell the “state of lawless violence” in these areas.
The AFP Central (Visayas) Command sent to Negros Oriental the 202 IB from Bohol and the 11 IB from Zamboanga City.
Clement said that those additional troops were “enough forces to contain… the insurgency problem there, not actually because of the spate of killings.”
Aside from the forces of the Philippine National Police (PNP), there are five combat battalions of the Army assigned in the Island of Negros.
As AFP CentCom commander, Clement ordered operations against the NPA around Guihulngan town in Negros Oriental.
The AFP CentCom is responsible for of the spate of killings in Eastern Visayas under Clement.
From March 2019, in Samar Island, the killings of civilians had intensified. There are 515 barangays being militarized and 250 of these barangays were occupied by the AFP troopers. More than 300 families were dislocated.
Psywar operations were also employed by the AFP in Western Visayas. In March 2019, series of fake encounters were reported to cover the illegal arrest of the farmers and Tumanduk indigenous people in Panay Island. The CentCom had also presented a “minor fake surenderee” as a ‘red fighter.’
Also in March 2019, Clement’s troops were commanded by the United States (US) forces in the Pacific Partnership training operations.
The AFP-CentCom under Clement fully supported localized peace talks with the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF).
Clement 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 further said.
“The Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (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.
Clement to further intensify the fight against the communist insurgency for four months
Duterte, as commander-in-chief, has directed Clement to further intensify the fight against the communist insurgency for four months because Clement will retire on January 5, 2020.
Salvador Panelo, presidential spokesperson said: “One of the marching orders of the President is to continue the government’s goal to end the local communist armed conflict.”
“The Palace is confident that with General Clement at the helm of the AFP, he will continue to uphold the high degree of professionalism, the dedication and the integrity our soldiers have displayed to flag and country,” Panelo added.
Clement, vowed to sustain the government’s efforts to end the communist insurgency.
Clement said his leadership, “will continue focusing on the New People’s Army (NPA) with the help of more sectors of society.”
“I think the critical factor now is how to bring in everybody onboard against this fight because it can’t just be our Armed Forces or local government units fighting this problem,” Clement said.
“It has to be the whole country, the whole nation. This is a national problem so we have to address this as a people, collectively, so that we may have peace in our country,” he added.
He said the NPA problem will be addressed by engaging more sectors “so that more of us are fighting to quickly end the problem.”
Clement said he will pursue the AFP campaign against the NPA, but this time with the involvement of the entire Filipino people.
“The armed forces and the local government cannot do it alone,” he said.
Clement clarified however that other important issues like anti-terror campaign and territorial defense will not be left unattended.
Clement said the campaign against terrorism, territorial defense, and others are continuing programs that he will also focus on, including the AFP’s modernization.
Just four months as CSAFP
On January 5, 2020, Clement will reach a mandatory age of retirement at 56-years old. Four months as CSAFP is too short for his ambition to end the insurgency in the country.
However, Clement’s pronouncements are just for the “mind setting” to all AFP commands. It would be a psywar propaganda. He wants to unite the whole AFP in “crushing” the revolutionary movement by the end of Duterte’s term in 2022.
But this is too ambitious.
Duterte’s E-CLIP is not enough to solve the people’s poverty. Military operations is not the answer to resolve the armed conflict. The localized peace talks will not work either.
Furthermore, Clement did not discuss how he will address the corruption within the AFP institution. He did not also talk about the discontented junior officers as the Duterte regime has favored the Chinese government. He did not even reveal that the truth of the matter is that the AFP is still under the influence of the government of the US, which can command the AFP to “discard” the Duterte regime when the people’s movement further grew. And Duterte knew this.
Thus, Duterte is still hopeful of a complete loyalty from the AFP and he will look for another loyal general in January 2020. In the meantime, let the most loyal and most notorious general take the command, be thankful and feel indebted to Duterte, as the people also will not stand idle.