Operation Plan Bantay Laya
OPlan Bantay Laya is an end product of more than three decades of failures and frustrations of U.S.-GRP-AFP to crush and defeat the National Democratic people’s struggle led by the CPP-NPA-NDF in the country.
Bantay Laya is the latest formulation of previous counterinsurgency plans initially crafted during the Marcos dictatorship. Due to reverses suffered by government forces, these plans have undergone revisions by succeeding regimes under different names:
Involved in conceptualization, planning and execution of all these plans is the U.S. government through the Pentagon and Central Intelligence Agency as has been the case since the anti-dissident campaigns against the PKP-HMB during the Magsaysay regime in the early 1950s.
Having run out of counterinsurgency options Bantay Laya I & II appear to be the U.S.-Arroyo regime’s “final solution” to the long drawn-out conflict. A novel and significant feature is its special emphasis on punitive measures in dealing with the political component of the insurgency. This includes suppressive measures against Congressional Party List representatives and constituencies and “neutralization” of legal institutions and organizations. Bantay Laya’s focus on the political component and White Area operations is best described by veteran reporter and columnist Amando Doronila in Philippine Daily Inquirer (21 June 2006):
“The blueprint of war outlined in the ‘orders of battle’ of OPlan Bantay Laya envisages decimation of non-military segments of the communist movement. It is not designed to engage the New People’s Army in armed conflict in field warfare. It is designed to butcher and massacre defenseless non-combatants. It is therefore a sinister plan for civilian butchery, a strategy which exposes the military and police to fewer risks and casualties than they would face in armed fighting with the communist guerrillas.”
In dealing with legal institutions and organizations the term “neutralize legal personalities” is conspicuous in media reports on Bantay Laya. Again we cite the following revelation of Doronila:
“The emphasis of this strategy on ‘neutralizing’ sectoral/front/legal organizations helps explain why most of the victims of the past five years have been non-combatants and defenseless members of the Left. During that period the number of murdered aboveground members of the Left has far exceeded fatalities of the New People’s Army in armed encounters with security forces.
“This strategy is blamed for the systematic massacre of non-combatants. It offers a huge potential for human rights abuses and atrocities. It makes the regime look more cold-blooded in its methods in trying to crush the insurgency than its predecessors, not excluding the Marcos dictatorship. It opens the path to the slaughter of the defenseless.”
The U.S.-Arroyo regime probably believes that giving license to military commanders to carry out extra-legal draconian measures that include physical elimination of legal personalities and non-combatants will intimidate, terrorize and decapitate the National Democratic struggle leading to its demoralization, political disintegration, loss of will to struggle and eventual capitulation.
Operation Phoenix, Jakarta Solution, Death Squads
What is unfolding today under the U.S.-Arroyo regime evokes memories of Operation Phoenix conceived by the Pentagon and CIA during the Vietnam war. In this nationwide operation at least 41,000 Vietnamese legal personalities and civilians were tortured and murdered by U.S.-directed Saigon troops in a desperate bid to reverse the unfavorable trend in the war situation.
In Indonesia in 1965-66 the U.S.-supported Suharto dictatorship unleashed what came to be known as the “Jakarta solution.” This was no ordinary massacre but a “blood bath” directed against members and sympathizers of the Communist Party of Indonesia (PKI) and constituencies and followers of the Sukarno government, almost all of whom were legal personalities and plain civilians. Estimate of murdered and massacred “blood bath” victims range from a minimum of 500,000 up to a high of one million. It was reported that many rivers in Indonesia where the bodies were dumped turned bright red and maintained that color for many days.
In Latin America CIA-supported and trained “death squads” carried out systematic assassinations, murders and massacres of tens of thousands of legal personalities in Guatemala, Uruguay, Chile, Argentina, Bolivia, Peru, Colombia, Nicaragua and El Salvador where US-supported dictatorships reigned since the decade of the 1950s.
The “Final Solution”
As mentioned earlier Bantay Laya was conceptualized and planned by the U.S.-Arroyo regime as a “final solution” in a desperate bid to put an end to more than three decades of failures and frustrations in dealing with the protracted National Democratic struggle.
As reported in the Philippine Daily Inquirer (18 June 2006), one military official ended a briefing on Bantay Laya with this statement: “We have been in this game for decades. Perhaps it is time to put into play an endgame strategy (read: ‘final solution’) that will terminate this lingering problem.” Included in the same report” “This is it. If this won’t work, I don’t know what else would,” a key security official and one of the key movers of Bantay Laya told the reporter.