The appointment of Lt. Gen. Emmanuel Bautista as the new chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines is not unexpected, said human rights lawyers, because it followed the promotion and appointment of other military officials who were linked to rights violations.
By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA – Human rights groups warned that the appointment of Lt. Gen. Emmanuel Bautista as the new chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) “signals the escalation of human rights violations” under the Aquino administration.
Bautista, the brains behind the counterinsurgency program Oplan Bayanihan http://bulatlat.com/main/tag/oplan-bayanihan/ , was sworn in by President Benigno Aquino III Tuesday January 15.
In a statement, human rights group Karapatan said Oplan Bayanihan resulted in the killing of 137 activists as of December 2012.
Cristina Palabay, Karapatan secretary general, attributed the killings of Italian missionary Fausto Tentorio, Dutch aid worker Willem Geertman, and indigenous peoples’ leaders Jimmy Liguyon and Juvy Capion, among others, to Oplan Bayanihan.
The group maintained that Oplan Bayanihan, which was reportedly crafted by Bautista, is patterned after the United States Counterinsurgency Guide of 2009.
Palabay said “it is no coincidence that Gen. Bautista was appointed at that time when Oplan Bayanihan is on the last year of its Phase 1.”
Bautista was commander of the 3rd Infantry Division of the Philippine Army, deputy chief of staff for operations, a brigade commander (702nd Infantry Brigade, 7th Infantry Division), and assistant deputy chief of staff for plans and program, according to a report.
Palabay said that Oplan Bayanihan, despite its ‘people-centered’ and ‘respect for human rights’ catch-phrases, is as “vicious as Arroyo’s Oplan Bantay Laya.”
Karapatan records show that 1,205 unarmed individuals, mostly activists and members of progressive people’s organizations were killed during the implementation of Arroyo’s counterinsurgency program.
“There are still incidents of bombings and indiscriminate firing, the use of schools, chapels, medical facility and other public places for military purposes. People are still forced to leave their homes because of military atrocities in their communities,” Palabay said.
In its 2012 yearend report, Karapatan revealed that at least 30,000 civilians were forced to evacuate due to military operations.
Under Oplan Bayanihan, 239 were arrested and detained. As of November 30, 2012, there are 398 political prisoners, at least 123 of whom were arrested under the Aquino administration.
In just one month, from December 2012 to January this year, 28 activists were arrested.
In a similar vein, a group of human rights lawyers the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) said Bautista’s appointment “fits in perfectly like a velvet glove on an iron fist.” “It jibes with the overall anti-people design that has resulted in continuing and disturbing human rights violations,” Edre Olalia, NUPL secretary general said.
Aquino’s appointment of Bautista is not unexpected, Olalia said, noting that Aquino promoted and appointed other military and police officials despite unresolved accountability for human rights violations.
Earlier, Aquino appointed Gen. Eduardo Año, one of the suspects in the abduction of activist Jonas Burgos, as new chief of the Intelligence Services of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (Isafp). His appointment has been deferred following protest from Jonas’s mother, Mrs. Edita Burgos.
Aquino also named Brig. Gen. Aurelio Baladad, who was implicated in the arrest and detention of 43 health workers in February 2009, as AFP deputy chief of staff for operations. Baladad is one of the respondents in the torture charges filed by the so-called Morong 43.